Friday, 19 December 2014
Move Over Père Noël, This Blog's About Per Thorén
Christmas may be creeping up on faster than a jolly Père Noël to a serving of milk and cookies, but unfortunately this blog's going to make the man with a bag take the back seat of the sleigh for a moment. The man at the reins of THIS sleigh is Per Thorén, a turn of the century Swedish skater who won a European title and medals at both the World Championships and Olympic Winter Games.
Per Ludvig Julius Thorén was born in Stockholm, Sweden on January 26, 1885 and although we don't know a lot about his career, we do know that his accomplishments as both a singles and pairs skater were considerable as was his most enduring contribution to skating: the half loop.
Keeping in mind that Swedish skaters like Ulrich Salchow and Richard Johansson would have certainly been formidable opponents for a skater like Thorén, he nevertheless literally carved his own niche in the ice in the first decade of the 1900's, winning the Swedish men's title in 1905 and 1907, four medals at the European Championships including gold in his final attempt at the singles crown in 1911 and two World medals (bronze in 1905 and silver in 1909). In 1908, he found himself smack dab in the middle of his teammate Ulrich Salchow's skirmish with Russia's Nikolay Panin at the Summer Olympics in London, England and with Salchow and Richard Johansson was one of three Swedish men who swept the podium in the men's event that year. Never mind that two of the five judges were Swedish. That said, Thorén's medal win at those Games was impressive moreso in the fact that he climbed from sixth place in the school figures to claim the bronze at a time in history where school figures obviously played a very prominent role in determination of the overall results. He was noted as a particularly high jumper.
After winning the 1911 European men's title in Russia, Thorén eyed a new challenge - pairs skating - and caught on very quickly. He teamed up with Elna Montgomery, a ladies skater who had been an Olympic teammate of his at the 1908 Summer Games and won the 1912 Swedish pairs title in Gothenburg followed by a second pairs title with a second partner, Elly Svensson, the following year in his hometown of Stockholm after which he retired from competition.
As mentioned earlier, Thorén's most notable contribution to skating is his invention of the Thorén (or "half loop") jump where a skater takes off as they would in a loop but instead lands on the opposite leg on a back inside edge, allowing them in a combination for instance to go right into a Salchow or flip jump.
After retiring from competitive skating, Thorén survived both World Wars and passed away on January 5, 1962. He is buried in the Northern Necropolis in Solna, Sweden. Richard Witt's book "A Lifetime of Training for Just Ten Seconds: Olympians in their own words" quotes a modest Thorén reflecting on his 1908 Olympic medal win: "I really lack the words to compliment myself today". Even if Thorén may have been modest of his Olympic medal win, we don't have to be. Way to go, Per and thanks for the half loop, wherever you are!
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