Dr. Hellmut May – A Figure Skating Legend

By on Feb 6, 2012 in Personal, Skating, Sports, Uncategorized

As a person who has been involved in skating for much of her life, Dr Hellmut May’s presence as a force in coaching has always been well-documented. It had been my plan to post this piece during the Canadian Figure Skating Championships that were held in Moncton but some technical glitches got in the way.

As it happens, there was a lot more to his story than simply coaching and one that is worth sharing:

‘Dr. Hellmut May, Professional Figure Skating Coach, Mentor, Leader, Technician, Author, and Visionary… Designer and Distributor of the world-class WIFA Figure Skating Boot, Olympian (1936; 1948), inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, 2010…and forever remembered as a true Viennese Gentleman, having also starred in the Vienna Ice Show.
June 9, 1921 – November 11, 2011 (1:11 a.m.) Carpe Diem!’

Dr May’s wife, Andrea May, has generously shared the following with me:

Outline of Dr. Hellmut May’s Life – Duties associated with Teaching Figure Skating, Founding the first Coaches Association, and developing an International Skating Business…
as Hellmut once said, “It all is dedicated to one goal and purpose: to serve the development and well-being of the young skater.”

• Born in Vienna, Austria, June 9, 1921
• Competed in his native Austria: National Championships, 1935-1948.

• 1936 Olympics, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany: youngest competitor, at 14 years old; 14th in figures, 15th in free skating, and 14th place, overall. Very exciting experience, as these Olympics were the last competition of skating legends, 10x World Champion & 3x Olympic Champion from Norway, Sonja Henie, and 7x World Champion & 2x Olympic Champion from Austria, Karl Schaefer. (Plus, had to march by the notorious Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany; Hermann Goehring, the Reichsmarschal of the German Air force, called “Luftwaffe;” and Josef Goebels, Propaganda Minister for the German Reich.)

• 1948 Olympics, St. Moritz, Switzerland: 7th in figures, 7th in free skating, and 8th place overall, after not skating for 4 years, due to WWII. Hellmut’s mother had rescued his skates from their bomb damaged apartment before fleeing to Kirchberg, Tirol. (Has to be recognized that, at this time, Hellmut had to compete with younger American boys who had never faced WWII, survived POW Camps, or lack of food. A new era…American, Dick Button won, & was 1st to do a double axel in competition; Canadian, Barbara Ann Scott won; Other well known names – Suzanne Morrow & Wallace Diestelmeyer; Edi Rada; Ede Kiraly; Carlo Fassi…)

• 1948 Worlds, Davos, Switzerland: 8th place overall.
Coming From this Historical Era of Survival…

• Arbeitsdienst (Compulsory Labour Service), April – September, 1939, S. Woerthersee, in Carinthia, Austria
• Drafted for WWII, May, 1941 – Luftwaffe Air Force, Radar, Paratroopers, American & British POW Camps (American troops had gone too far east, according to the Yalta Agreement, and therefore, had to withdraw, giving up territory to the Russians, but luckily, they shipped their prisoners by freight train to the British zone, instead of turning them over to the Russians; Hellmut was used as an interpreter in charge of obtaining supplies for 300,000 prisoners, because he could speak English.)

• Exhibition Skating – London, Paris; and, in Vienna, which was occupied by troops from the Allied Powers, and divided into 4 zones: British, American, French, and Russian.

• University of Vienna, obtained a Ph.D. in World Commerce, 1947

• Vienna Ice Show – First Principal Skater for 7 years, touring all over Europe, 1946-1953; became famous, doing Pair Skating on Stilts!
• Starred in Feature Film, acting and skating in, “Fruehling auf dem Eis,” (“Spring on Ice”), 1951

• Mountain Climber – climbed the Matterhorn, in Zermatt, Switzerland, solo, in 1949

• Worked for the Volkswagen Company, Autohaus Liewers, in the Eastern part of Austria, which was Russian Occupied, 1954
• 1st time to Canada: Winter, 1954, taught at the Moncton Skating Club, a new club in New Brunswick, not yet registered with the C.F.S.A., and was their 1st Coach. Produced very successful Ice Shows. Hellmut loved the warmth and hospitality of the Maritime people, who took Hellmut in like their own son. (First met Evelyn Edgett, here, who developed a very successful Dance Centre.)
• Return to Canada: Offered a contract to teach figure skating at either the prestigious Winnipeg Winter Club, or at the large Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club, in Vancouver, which, Hellmut favoured, because of the milder climate. Hence, travelled by ship, “The Seven Seas,” from Bremerhaven, N. Germany, to Montreal, in September, 1955, and drove across the Trans Canada Highway, which was nothing but a gravel road, to Vancouver, B.C. – unfortunately, found that people were cold.
• Contrary to arrangements in Hellmut’s contract, the Club had begun 2 weeks earlier, and a third coach had been hired, so all of the available students were already taking from other coaches. No one really knew about his figure skating accomplishments, or cared who this man with an accent was, who wore white skates. Hellmut was left with only 1 pupil to teach.
• In order to make ends meet, Hellmut had to work as a Used Car Salesman on Kingsway, and at the Fish Cannery in Steveston, digging frozen fish out from the crushed ice, in the bottom of boats….

• 1964 – Founder of the first coaching group in Canada, the Professional Skaters Association of British Columbia; Cofounder and Negotiator when it merged with a similar group in Toronto, to form the Professional Skaters Association of Canada, P.S.A.C., in 1965, which later became the Figure Skating Coaches of Canada, F.S.C.C.
• 1966, 1967 – Elected as the second President of the P.S.A.C. for 2 years

• 1980 – 1982 – Served on the Council for C.F.S.A. – F.S.C.C. (Canadian Figure Skating Association & Figure Skating Coaches of Canada) which was formed to manage the National Coaching Certification Program, N.C.C.P.
• Author of the figure portions of the Figure Skating Manuals for Level I and Level II Technical for the National Coaching Certification Program; also a Course Conductor for the N.C.C.P.

• Head Coach of the Kerrisdale Figure Skating Club from 1955, to 2009
• Has taught National Champions, World and Olympic Competitors: Trained top International Competitive Figure Skaters for the 1964(Innsbruck), 1968(Grenoble), and 1972(Sapporo) Winter Olympics; acted as Canadian Team Coach for Skate Moscow, 1982.
• 1975 – 1993 – One of a few Head Coaches assigned to teach at the C.F.S.A./Skate Canada National Training Seminars
• Invited to conduct many Coaching Seminars across Canada and U.S.A.
• 1996 – Appointed to be a member of the Canadian Figure Skating Association National Hall of Fame Selection Committee, serving for several terms.

• Founded the Company, Can Alpine Agencies, Ltd., in 1969, the importer and distributor of skating equipment, especially of the WIFA figure skating boots for North America, which, he was instrumental in designing at the factory in Vienna. (The WIFA Diamond boot became the boot of many famous skaters like Kurt Browning, Tracy Wilson, Victor Kraatz, Torville-Dean, the Duchesnays, and many of the Russian champions. Also, dealt with M.K. blades from England.

• Founding Charter Member of the Austro-Canadian Businessmen’s Association of British Columbia, 1972, and subsequently, served as President.
• Became the driving force to establish the famous “Johann Strauss Ball,” at the Hotel Vancouver.

• Inducted into the Skate Canada Hall of Fame, 2010; Standing ovation, at Coliseum in Victoria.

For more information and a beautiful video tribute go to: http://amherstcremation.com/memorial.html