Friday, March 25, 2011

Vintage Video: Eva Pawlik

Eva Pawlik was a highly rated Austrian female amateur skater in the 1940s.

Born in 1927, she was regarded as a child prodigy, able to jump a single axel and do a large number of spins at the age of four. In her teens she would get up at four am daily to run to theVienna ice rink (Wiener Eislaufverein), for practice before going to school. Austrian skaters were impeded in the 1930s and 40s by the fact that there were no indoor skating halls and they were restricted to practicing in winter.

Nazi Germany's absorption of Austria in 1938 and the 2nd World War destroyed sportsmen's lives and careers. Pawlik, for example, was due to compete (aged 12) in the singles, in the 1940 Winter Olympic Games, and in the pairs with Rudi Seeliger. However, they could only take part in domestic competitions, becoming German youth champions, both individually and as a couple. Drafted into the German Army, Rudi Seeliger was captured by the Soviets and had to work as a slave coal-miner until his return to Austria, in 1949.

In 1947, Pawlik was rated best European skater and no 2 in the world. This did not help, as Austrian skaters were barred from entering European and World competitions, (a throwback to the war). However, her 1948 program earned her 3 silver medals, at the European´s, at the Olympics and at the World´s. The European championships of that year allowed the entry of non-Europeans (for political reasons), which probably cost her dear. In 1949, despite suffering acute appendicitis, Pawlik beat her rival Alena Vrzanova, in Milan to become European Champion. In the World Championships held in Paris, Pawlik was lying a close second behind Vrzanova when one of the heels on her skates broke, (sabotage was suspected, but never proved). The judges would not allow her to continue with borrowed skates and Vrzanova went on to win. Pawlik did a lot of exhibition skating in the US. She was also asked to appear in a movie starring Gene Kelly. He wanted to combine his dancing with her skating. She declined, turning professional would have excluded her from the 1950 championships. The pressure increased, (her parents needed the financial support) and despite the exhortations of double Olympic Champion Karl Shäfer, she turned professional at the end of the year.

She joined the Vienna Ice Revue and performed a program that was considered by many journalists and figure skating experts to be technically and artistically superior to anything produced by Vrzanova. She also played a major part in the production of a movie featuring the Revue, "Spring on the Ice" ("Frühling auf dem Eis"), 1950. This inspired the later double Olympic champion, Ludmilla Belousova, to take up skating.

In 1961, Pawlik retired from skating and became the first female sportscaster of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF). In 1973 she began her third profession as a teacher of German and English at a Viennese secondary school, (pupils from 10 to 18). In 1954 she had earned her doctorate in German and English at the University of Vienna. In 1979 Pawlik became severely ill and died in 1983, four months after her husband, who had died from a sudden heart attack.

1 comment:

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