View Poll Results: Would Laurence Owen Have Beaten Sjoukje Dijkstra at the 64 Olympics Had She Lived?

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  • Yes

    21 77.78%
  • No

    6 22.22%
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  1. #1

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    Would Laurence Owen Have Beaten Sjoukje Dijkstra at the 64 Olympics Had She Lived?

    As many of you know, a new film RISE was recently released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the day on which the 1961 U.S. figure skating team perished in a plane crash on its way to that years World Championships. If you get a chance, check it out - the proceeds go to the memorial fund set up as a legacy to those that died.

    One of the great what if's that resulted from the tragedy of the plane crash is whether Laurence Owen would have become Olympic champion in 1964 in place of Sjoukje Dijkstra? What do you think?

    One yardstick by which to gauge how things may have panned out is Wendy Griner. Owen had just beaten Griner into second place to win the 1961 North American Championships. Griner then went on to take the Silver medal at the 1962 World Championships, finishing second to Dijkstra. Hence, even as early as 1962, it would appear as though Owen would have been challenging Dijkstra for supremacy.

    Took the opportunity to also bring together the following re the tragedy:-

    RISE

    Official Website

    Background

    Enduring Legacy Doc

    61 U.S. Team Doc

    Remembering 61 Team Doc

    Documentary

    Original Newsreel

    Sports Illustrated

    Skateweb - Retrospective on 1961 US Nationals - Sandra Loosemore

    1961 Team Website

    THE SKATERS WHO DIED

    MENS TEAM

    Bradley Lord

    1961 Nationals

    North American Championships 1961

    Gregory Kelley

    1961 Nationals

    Douglas Ramsey

    1961 Nationals

    LADIES TEAM

    Laurence Owen

    1961 Nationals

    1960 Olympics

    North American Championships 1961

    Stephanie Westerfeld

    1961 Nationals

    Rhode Lee Michelson

    1961 Nationals

    PAIRS TEAM

    Maribel Owen & Dudley Richards

    1961 Nationals

    North American Championships 1961

    Ila Ray Hadley & Ray Hadley Jnr

    1961 Nationals

    Laurie Hickox and William Hickox

    Footage

    ICE DANCE TEAM

    Diane Sherbloom & Larry Pierce

    1961 Nationals

    Dona Lee Carrier & Roger Campbell

    1961 Nationals

    Patricia Major Dineen & Robert Dineen

    1961 Nationals

    OTHERS THAT DIED

    Maribel Vinson-Owen

    1932 Olympics

    Article

    Article
    Last edited by Maofan7; 04-11-2011 at 02:55 AM.

  2. #2
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    Nobody knows since Laurence Owen was just establishing herself as America's top ladies skater back in 1961 and she was only 16. Sjoukje Dijkstra was the dominate ladies skater after Carol Heiss retired but american skaters were dominate at this time and if Owen continued to improve no doubt she had a chance for gold in Innsbruck in 64. She might have been the one to capture the imagination of americans for figure sakting instead of Peggy since the Olympics were becoming much bigger with TV covering them.

  3. #3

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    She surely had the promise, and the "connections"; via the team that MVO had established to help her do so.
    It seems very likely. However, sadly, we will never know.

  4. #4
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    I voted no. I dont know much about Dijkstra but she was the kind of skater- dominant in figures, very consistent, been 2nd for a few years before the #1 retired, politically backed, which would be very hard to beat back then. She was probably like the 60s version of Schuba except with way stronger jumps. Despite being a cumbersome and unelegant free skater she generally won the free skating portion of events in addition to bulding big leads in figures. And even Owens legendary mom didnt never won a major title outside of U.S Nationals, and I havent heard many say things like her daughter was ever projected to be a greater skater than her. So with not much to go by I would vote no.

  5. #5
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    I remember reading somewhere that Laurence had a 'trick knee' that gave her consistency issues landing jumps. Even in winning the 1961 US title, Sandra Loosemore of Skate Web, wrote in her assessment of the event, that Owen had problems with the double lutz and the double axel.

    Dijkstra was a powerful jumper and compulsory skater, so that may have been to her advantage overall. Also, the Olympics were in Innsbruck in 1964, so politics may have favored the European skaters as well.

  6. #6

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    Here is the link to Sandra Loosemore's article on Skateweb from August 2000: Skateweb - Retrospective on 1961 US Nationals - Sandra Loosemore

    Loosemore's assessment of Owen's performance at 61 US Nationals was: "Owen's program opened with some fast stroking around the ice, into a series of a waltz jump, axel, and axel sitspin. Then there were some dancey edge steps, a double salchow, double loop, and a camel spin. A double flip was underrotated and landed forward, double axel was cheated (but not so badly as Westerfield's), walleys, double flip, double lutz also underrotated and landed forward. Back spiral into a layback, hoppy steps on toe picks, straight-line footwork, split jumps, outside spread eagle, flying camel, flying sitspin changing to a cross-foot spin to end."

    61 US Nationals was very early in Owen's career - she was only 16. I think any problems with the axel and lutz would have been sorted out by the 64 Olympics had she lived.

  7. #7
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    Of course the U.S was pretty good at politiking too then, especialy in singles. Back then politics played an even bigger part in the results than today. Even an excellent skater would not win unless they had a certain amount of political push behind them.

  8. #8

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    I don't know if Laurence would have won. Nobody knows, so I won't vote.

    However, I took a look at the 1960 Olympic scores, and Sjoukje was by no means all that dominant in any portion of the competition or in a solid 2nd behind Heiss. Sjoukje barely placed above Barbara Roles.

    Heiss- Figure: 837.8 (1st), Freeskate: 652.3 (1st), Total: 1490.1 (1st)
    Dijkstra- Figures: 792.0 (2nd), Freeskate: 632.8 (3rd), Total: 1424.8 (2nd)
    Roles- Figures: 772.9 (3rd), Freeskate: 642.0 (2nd), Total: 1414.9 (3rd)

    Sjoukje only placed above Barbara by 10 points overall because she was ahead of Barbara by 20 points in figures while Barbara was ahead of Sjoukje in freeskating by 10 points. Sjoukje was no heir apparent.

    Furthermore, Laurence was placed in classic "Wait your turn" position, placing 6th in both figures and freeskating with her scores all over the place and two Americans on the podium above her. Laurence's scores were:

    Owens- Figures: 741.7 (6th), Freeskating: 601.3 (6th), Total: 1343.0 (6th)

    Moreover, the raw points do not say it all about Laurance. I am inclined to believe that she was far better at figures than the scores indicate because she was placed 3rd by 3 of 9 judges, meaning at least 1/3 of the judges thought Laurance's figures closely rivaled Sjoukje's, and none of those judges were the USA judge, which placed Laurence 4th in figures. For what it's worth, Japan actually placed Laurence 3rd and above Sjoukje (4th) in figures, meaning the Japanese judge actually had a higher opinion of Laurance's figures relative to Stoukje than the USA judge

    Overall, Laurence was within reach of Sjoukje with Laurence having hidden strength in figures when most look to Laurence's freeskating as her strength.
    Last edited by bardtoob; 04-11-2011 at 07:14 AM.

  9. #9

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    I don't think you can say who would have won if circumstances had been different. If they had it would have set in motion a whole different chain of events.

    If the 2002 Olympics had been canceled everyone would be debating whether Michelle or Irina would have won, no one would predict that Sarah Hughes would be the winner.

  10. #10
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    Laurence Owen would have beateb Dijkstra

    I would have to add my vote to the 21 others who indicated Laurie Owen would have defeated Dijkstra for the gold medal at Innsbruck. When I look at the fact that Laurie went from 6th at Squaw Valley to first in the 1961 Nationals and also won the North Americans defeateing a very strong skater in Wendy Griner, I really believe she would have improved enough to win at Innsbruck. Dijkstra skated a very safe program as she was so far ahead after school figures. She would have had to skaye with a little more pressure on her with laurie in the competition. Plus Laurie had two outstanding coaches guiding her progress. Maribel Vinson Owen and Bud Wilson. Barring injury or illness, I think with Laurie's rate of improvement and outstandong ability and great coaching would have placed her on the gold medal stand. I realize that a lot could have happened between 1961 and 1964 and that this speculation on my part. but I think I've made a pretty good case. What do the rest of you think? Let me know.

  11. #11
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    Laurence Owen would have beaten Dijkstra

    I would have to add my vote to the 21 others who indicated Laurie Owen would have defeated Dijkstra for the gold medal at Innsbruck. When I look at the fact that Laurie went from 6th at Squaw Valley to first in the 1961 Nationals and also won the North Americans defeateing a very strong skater in Wendy Griner, I really believe she would have improved enough to win at Innsbruck. Dijkstra skated a very safe program as she was so far ahead after school figures. She would have had to skaye with a little more pressure on her with laurie in the competition. Plus Laurie had two outstanding coaches guiding her progress. Maribel Vinson Owen and Bud Wilson. Barring injury or illness, I think with Laurie's rate of improvement and outstandong ability and great coaching would have placed her on the gold medal stand. I realize that a lot could have happened between 1961 and 1964 and that this speculation on my part. but I think I've made a pretty good case. What do the rest of you think? Let me know.

  12. #12
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    Missed the window for the poll, but would have voted Yes.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by bardtoob View Post
    I don't know if Laurence would have won. Nobody knows, so I won't vote.

    However, I took a look at the 1960 Olympic scores, and Sjoukje was by no means all that dominant in any portion of the competition or in a solid 2nd behind Heiss. Sjoukje barely placed above Barbara Roles.

    Heiss- Figure: 837.8 (1st), Freeskate: 652.3 (1st), Total: 1490.1 (1st)
    Dijkstra- Figures: 792.0 (2nd), Freeskate: 632.8 (3rd), Total: 1424.8 (2nd)
    Roles- Figures: 772.9 (3rd), Freeskate: 642.0 (2nd), Total: 1414.9 (3rd)

    Sjoukje only placed above Barbara by 10 points overall because she was ahead of Barbara by 20 points in figures while Barbara was ahead of Sjoukje in freeskating by 10 points. Sjoukje was no heir apparent.

    Furthermore, Laurence was placed in classic "Wait your turn" position, placing 6th in both figures and freeskating with her scores all over the place and two Americans on the podium above her. Laurence's scores were:

    Owens- Figures: 741.7 (6th), Freeskating: 601.3 (6th), Total: 1343.0 (6th)

    Moreover, the raw points do not say it all about Laurance. I am inclined to believe that she was far better at figures than the scores indicate because she was placed 3rd by 3 of 9 judges, meaning at least 1/3 of the judges thought Laurance's figures closely rivaled Sjoukje's, and none of those judges were the USA judge, which placed Laurence 4th in figures. For what it's worth, Japan actually placed Laurence 3rd and above Sjoukje (4th) in figures, meaning the Japanese judge actually had a higher opinion of Laurance's figures relative to Stoukje than the USA judge

    Overall, Laurence was within reach of Sjoukje with Laurence having hidden strength in figures when most look to Laurence's freeskating as her strength.
    We can only speculate of course but for the very reasons that you listed (where did you find out Laurie's Olympic scores btw?? I would have voted Laurence had she lived likely would have beaten Sjoukje had they both skated their best. After watching archive footage of both skaters I think Laurence had that extra special magical 'something' that can't be taught. You have to be born with it. Sjoukje was a phenomenal jumper-indeed I'd say she was probably the Ito/Harding of her day internationally just as Rhode was for the Americans-but imo Laurence to me looked like the better overall skater than Sjoukje-her jumps looked strong except for a couple of hiccups and there was an ethereal quality to her skating imo that Sjoukje's did not possess. She was fairly tall for a skater 5'6 but at 16 she had a pixie quality to her that was appealing to watch. I think the international judges by '64 would have favored Laurence's style over Sjoukje. She seemed to have a dancer's grace on the ice, and had a lightness to her skating compared to Sjoukje who seemed more 'heavy' on the ice in comparison and not as graceful.

    Laurence at the '61 U.S. Nationals
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0114AudgYms

    Sjoukje in her gold medal winning '64 Olympic skate
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkIM4rCHxC4
    Last edited by Sasha'sSpins; 09-08-2011 at 04:44 AM.

  14. #14
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    I always had the impression that had she continued on and perhaps won a medal at the 1964 Winter Olympics, Laurence Owen would have been more remember as a Janet Lynn free skating type years before Janet Lynn came onto the scene....

  15. #15
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    Since skaters can influence the next generation's style, I wonder what U.S. skating would have been like now, if there were no crash. We might not have brought in foreign coaches as quickly as we did, for one thing. (not saying anything negative about that at all. just that the style might be a bit different had it not happened)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sasha'sSpins View Post
    where did you find out Laurie's Olympic scores btw??
    Most likely here: A great site for data mining specific competitions.

    http://www.winter-olympic-memories.c...esults_top.htm

  17. #17
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    Is there anyone who thinks Laurence would've finished anywhere below 2d? Is there a consensus that she would've beaten Regine Heitzer [AUT] who finished for the silver, and Petra Burka [CAN] who grabbed bronze? Just wondering ...

    BTW, Heitzer has never been discussed around FSU. What type of skater was she? anti-princess like Dijkstra, or future skating phenom countrywoman Schuba?

  18. #18
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    Only Heitzer video I could find was this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y96o4e4NIA

    First reaction: the skater she reminds me of more than any other is .... Dagmar Lurz (maybe it's the hair?)

  19. #19

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    Cool. So all of Heitzer's spins were clockwise and all the jumps, except the split jumps, were counterclockwise?

    Maybe she'd have been a strong jumper if she'd learned to jump clockwise.

  20. #20
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    i want to thank bardtoob for the Olympic Fact figure in 1960.

    i was curious if you Know the Olympic fact breakdown in 1956, 1964, 1968

    As far as answer to question.
    i would vote for laurence but i think it would been the same winner.
    one doesn't know how they would have skated if both would have been in it.
    how it would have went leading up to the 1964 olympics.

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