• U.S.

Sport: Five Little Pretenders

3 minute read

When vivacious Maribel Vinson, nine-time U. S. figure-skating champion, renounced her amateur status last autumn to tour the U. S. in a skating extravaganza called Gay Blades, the field she hadovershadowed for so many years blossomed with new enthusiasm.

Of the large group of youngsters who had been training with diligence and determination during her reign, five little pretenders-to-the-throne met last week at Ardmore, Pa. to vie for her crown. On the navy-blue ice of the Philadelphia Skating Club’s elegant new rink, the five little ladies, all under 21, traced out their prescribed school figures (first half of the program) with such hairline accuracy that the five solemn judges almost required the services of a Philadelphia lawyer to decide which performance was the best.

When the judges’ decisions—tabulated, computed and checked by specially hired mathematicians—were announced, top score (521.6 points) went to long-legged, 16-year-old Joan Tozzer, last year’s junior champion, daughter of Harvard’s famed Anthropology Professor Alfred Marston Tozzer. But close on her white-shod heels (517.5 points) was vivacious, Audrey Peppe (pronounced peppy) of Manhattan. So eager is Miss Peppe to follow the figure-eights of her aunt, Beatrix Loughran, who held the title in 1925-26-27, that she went abroad last summer to study under Sonja Henie’s skating instructor. Behind Miss Peppe came one representative from each of the three oldest U. S. figure-skating centres: Katherine Durbrow of Manhattan, Polly Blodgett of Boston (runner-up to Maribel Vinson last year) and Jane Vaughn of Philadelphia.

School figures count two-thirds in the championship. With the terror and tension of school figures behind them, the five little pretenders were more relaxed the next night when they competed in the free-skating competition, a spirited five-minute exhibition of varied steps skated to music. Free skating is Audrey Peppe’s forte. To the tune of the Hungarian Rhapsody, she delighted the crowd with flaring spins, jumps, dance steps. But Joan Tozzer so impressed the solemn judges with the simplicity and smoothness of her free-skating repertory that they gave her performance almost as many points as Miss Peppe’s. When the two-day totals were tallied, Joan Tozzer was awarded the crown by the slim margin of one-tenth of a point.

The new U. S. champion is blonde, naïve and nonchalant. Unlike petite Audrey Peppe, who at 6 learned the rudiments of figure skating under the tutelage of her famed aunt, Joan Tozzer is the only figure skater in her family. She learned her figures from Boston’s Willie Frick, tutor of Maribel Vinson. Once a year, on Christmas Day, Joan Tozzer goes skating at the Boston Arena with her father, who cannot so much as cut a 3.

In the men’s national championship, held simultaneously, there was no such close competition. St. Paul’s slim, slick Robin Lee, 18, won the title for the fourth year in a row.

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