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Home ice like home comfort at world figure skating championships

The world figure skating championships are in Montreal this year, which should provide a boost for Canadian skaters.

Nearly a 3rd of championships won by skaters competing in their own country

Jamie Sale and David Pelletier won gold at the 2001 world figure skating championships in Vancouver. (AFP via Getty Images)

The world figure skating championships begin in Montreal on March 18 with podium hopes on the minds of all the skaters.

Considered the pinnacle of the figure skating calendar, these championships have grown enormously since 1896, when the first worlds was held in Saint Petersburg, Russia, with just four male competitors. 

The gender of the competitors wasn't specified to start with, which allowed Madge Syers from Great Britain to take home the silver medal in 1902. An event for women was added in 1906 and for pairs in 1908. At first the three disciplines were held separately and were not combined into a single world championships until 1930 in New York, which was also the first time the event was held outside of Europe. Ice dance wasn't added officially to the program until 1952.

The world figure skating championships have been cancelled 15 times; during both World Wars and in 1961 out of respect for the Sabena Air flight 548 crash which counted the American team among its victims. 

Canadians have won gold at home 4 times

With a history of 108 years' worth of events, I wondered about the effect that home ice advantage had on the gold medal outcomes. It turns out that 32 titles for resident athletes were handed out or roughly 30 per cent of the time. There is something to be said for competing at home.

Canada has hosted the world figure skating championships 10 times, the first time in Montreal in 1932. During four of those events, Canadian skaters brought home the gold.

The greatest number of home ice titles belong to the men with 16 gold medals including three out of 10 titles for Sweden's Ulrich Salchow at championships in Stockholm. Canadians Kurt Browning and Patrick Chan rose to the top of their respective podiums during world championships in Halifax in 1990 and London, Ont., in 2013, respectively.

The women have won 11 titles on home ice, including two of the 10 titles in Oslo for Norwegian legend Sonja Henie. Austrian Herma Szabo won the second of her five world titles in Vienna in 1923 along with the first of two world pair titles with partner Ludwig Wrede also in Vienna in 1925 and 1927.

Underhill and Martini won in 1984

In total, there have been nine times that pairs have won their titles at home, including two for Canadian pairs. Even before Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini finished their free program in Ottawa and won the title in 1984, people were on their feet. It was especially sweet as they defeated Olympic and defending world champions Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev. Fast forward to a similar reaction by fans at worlds in 2001, when Jamie Sale and David Pelletier won the title in Vancouver. 

Ice dancers have only delivered home ice titles twice since 1952. The first time in Prague in 1962 by Czech ice dancers Eva Romanova and Pavel Roman and then in Nice in 2000 by French dancers Marina Anissina and Gwendal Peizerat.

If history tells the tale then there might be solid chances for Canada's skaters on home ice in Montreal.

About the Author

Pj Kwong currently does freelance work for Skate Ontario as the Business Development manager and has consulted for Alpine Canada in media relations. She’s been a veteran stadium announcer for eight Olympic Games, two Paralympic Games, one European Games, and the Arab Games. Most recently she’s done stadium announcing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, and the 2019 Pan American Games and Parapan American Games. Pj has worked as a freelance writer for CBC Sports since 2006 covering figure skating. Outside of the CBC, Pj has worked in Press Operations for the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, Media Relations for the Toronto 2017 Invictus Games.

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