Two weeks ago now, I went to see RISE. This historic event celebrated American figure skating, while commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Feb. 15, 1961 plane crash in which all of the members of the U.S. World Figure Skating team perished.  Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano and Michelle Kwan served as storytellers for "RISE".

Hosted by Matt Lauer, Co-Anchor NBC News TODAY Show, the event featured the premier of RISE and uniquely choreographed figure skating performances, including a piece by 2010 Olympic gold medalist Evan Lysacek. RISE took us on a journey that honored a remarkable group of athletes who through their loss inspired the hopes, dreams and successes of some of the most iconic names in Olympic sports history.

I've always been intrigued by this story.  There was an ice dancing team who trained here in Indianapolis at the Pepsi Coliseum on the plane.  I learned more about them through this movie.  Like how Larry Pierce's original partner incurred an injury and was not able to go to Worlds.  That injury saved her life.  There were actually a couple of stories like that.  Amazing how the world works and how everything ends up working out in the end...

It was Valentine's Day of 1961 and a day of excitement as the entire U.S. World Figure Skating Team.  Skaters, coaches, judges and officials all boarded the plane that was bound for Prague, Czechoslovakia. They boarded ready to represent their country at Worlds. 

The flight was to arrive in Brussels, Belgium, the next morning and then continue on to Prague, however something went wrong.  Just four miles from the Brussels airport, the plane went down in flames.  There were no survivors.  All 18 members of the U. S. Figure Skating Team along with 16 international officials, judges, coaches and family members perished, as well as the 27 other passengers and a flight crew of 11.
The entire skating community and the rest of the world was shocked by this tragedy. All of the other competing athletes had already arrived, and now the big question: should the competition go on as planned?
Against the wishes of U.S. Figure Skating and the Czech government, the Executive Committee of the International Skating Union voted that the championships be cancelled "as a sign of mourning over the death of our American comrades."

I remember reading all about Maribel Vincon Owen who was the mother and coach of Laurence Owen who was such an inspiration to many.  She is said to be one of the most influential figures in the skating world until her passing.  Maribel was the author of three books on figure skating, the first female sports writer for The New York Times and an AP correspondent. By 1961, she had taught more than 4,000 students of which included Ron Luddington and Frank Carroll.  I was always impressed by skaters that did things outside of skating to advance the sport and women as well. Apparently Laurence had been on the cover of Sports Illustrated just 3 days prior to their leaving and Maribel had been buying all the copies she saw at the airport! 

To this day, more than 40 years later, the U.S. Figure Skating Memorial Fund continues to provide qualified U.S. Figure Skating skaters who are in need of financial aid with monetary assistance to pursue their goals both inside and outside the competitive arena. The Fund is committed to awarding skating and academic scholarships to those athletes who have demonstrated excellent competitive results and/or academic achievements, and who have future potential in national and international competition.

An Encore Presentation will be made on March 7th at various theaters across the United States. 
Go to Fathom Events for more information.
You can also go to http://www.rise1961.com/ to learn more about this tragic event.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...