1961 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
The 1961 U.S. Figure Skating Championships was held at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from January 25 to 29, 1961. Medals were awarded in three colors: gold (first), silver (second), and bronze (third) in four disciplines – men's singles, ladies' singles, pair skating, and ice dancing – across three levels: senior, junior, and novice.
|1961 U.S. Figure Skating Championships|
|Date:||January 25 – 29|
|Location:||Colorado Springs, Colorado|
1960 U.S. Championships
1962 U.S. Championships
The event determined the U.S. team for the 1961 World Championships.
The competition was dedicated to the memory of Howard D. Herbert, president of the United States Figure Skating Association, who had died suddenly just a few days before the competition opened.
The event is noted especially for its catastrophic aftermath, in which most of the U.S. team died in the crash of Sabena Flight 548 on their way to the World Championships in Prague. Because many of the top American figure skaters (including Carol Heiss and David Jenkins) had retired from the sport after the 1960 Winter Olympics, new champions were crowned in all four disciplines.
A notable feature of this event is that it was the first time the United States Figure Skating Championships were covered on national television, with a modest rights fee being paid by CBS. Sportscaster Bud Palmer provided the "play-by-play", and Dick Button provided the commentary for the event, a role Button continued to perform for decades after the Championships broadcasts were picked up by ABC Sports in subsequent years.
Stephanie Westerfeld had a narrow lead over Laurence Owen after the compulsory figures and performed well enough in the free skating that she might have won the competition. However, Owen followed with a superior effort in the free skating and won the title on a 4-1 split of the first-place ordinals.
|3||Rhode Lee Michelson|
|1||Maribel Owen / Dudley Richards|
|2||Ila Ray Hadley / Ray Hadley, Jr.|
|3||Laurie Hickox / William Hickox|
|4||Janet Browning / Jim Browning|
Ice dancing (Gold dance)Edit
|1||Diane Sherbloom / Larry Pierce|
|2||Dona Lee Carrier / Roger Campbell|
|3||Patricia Dineen / Robert Dineen|
|4||Jan Jacobsen / Marshall Campbell|
|5||Thomasine Pierce / Roy Speeg|
|6||Katrine Neil / Peter Betts|
|2||Scott Ethan Allen|
|8||Wanda Mae Guntert|
|1||Vivian Joseph / Ronald Joseph|
|2||Dorothyann Nelson / Pieter Kollen|
|3||Irma Staro / Richard Callaghan|
|4||Cynthia Kauffman / Ronald Kauffman|
|5||Elizabeth George / Paul George|
|6||Nancy Streff / James Kelleher|
|7||Elizabeth Hickman / William Rider|
Ice dancing (Silver dance)Edit
|1||Rosemary McEvoy / Ralph Owen|
|2||Ila Ray Hadley / Ray Hadley, Jr.|
|3||Dorothyann Nelson / Pieter Kollen|
|4||Wilma Piper / Stanley Urban|
|5*||Susan Bright / Robert Munz|
|6*||Linda Rae Anderson / King Cole|
|7*||Anne Leyden / Monroe Meier|
|8*||Constance Caracciola / Donald Parent|
|9*||Georgia Taylor / Howard Taylor|
|10*||Linda Robinson / John Bickel|
|11*||Sally Wells / William Lincoln|
|12*||Margaret Mosford / Ben Wade|
*Eliminated before Final Round
|1||Peter Joseph Meyer|
|3||Sondra Lee Holmes|
Following the U.S. Championships, all the top skaters with the exception of Brown (who was ill; his place was taken by fourth-place finisher Ramsay) took part in the North American Figure Skating Championships in Philadelphia, where Owen captured the ladies title. The team then immediately departed for the World Figure Skating Championships in Prague on February 14, 1961, on board Sabena Flight 548. However, they never arrived; their flight crashed near Brussels, Belgium the next morning, killing all on board (including coaches, officials, and family members). The few team members who had not made the trip included skater Brown, and coach Ronald Ludington (who was unable to afford the travel expenses).
The U.S. Figure Skating Memorial Fund was established eight days after the crash by F. Ritter Shumway, then-president of the USFSA, and the fund has continued to this day. Its purpose is to provide help to promising skaters who lack funding for equipment. Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton are among future champions who have credited the memorial fund with being vital to their careers. RISE, a documentary film about the 1961 team, was released on February 17, 2011, two days after the 50th anniversary of the crash.
- Benjamin T. Wright, Skating in America, p. 168
- "The 1961 United States Championships", Skating magazine, April 1961