Karel Vosátka, inventor of the short program, has died

victorskid

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This former competitor in/for Czechoslavakia and a long-time coach in Quebec has gone unrecognized/unheralded for his significant contribution to the change to competition programs which we now take for granted.

Read more about him, his career, his contributions, and some of his students along with comments from ISU VP Benoit Lavoie in this article: https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/montreal-coach-invented-short-program-in-figure-skating

Some quotes:
Vosátka, a former national pairs champion and professional engineer in his native Czechoslovakia, was also the originator of an important feature of modern figure-skating competition.

In 1963, he invented the short program, now a fixture of competitive figure skating, including the Winter Olympics.

First introduced in 1964 for pair skaters at the European and World Championships, it became part of Olympic competition in 1968.

In 1973, the short program was introduced in men’s and ladies’ singles competitions.

Yet Vosátka, who immigrated to Canada in 1975 after fleeing his homeland in 1969, never received credit for the innovation.

Now, thanks to correspondence Vosátka kept throughout his life, as well as records of the International Skating Union (ISU), the Montreal Gazette has confirmed that he was, indeed, the inventor of the short program.

These include:
  • Vosátka’s detailed, six-page proposal for a two-and-a-half-minute compulsory program for pair skaters, signed and dated April 12, 1963. Vosátka submitted the proposal to Austrian figure-skating official Ernest Labin, a member of the ISU Council and later its president. It includes required pair-skating elements — lifts, pair spins and death spirals — and solo jumps, spins and footwork. Unlike compulsory figures and compulsory dance programs, it leaves the arrangement of the required elements and choice of music up to the skaters;
  • Minutes of the ISU Council in Helsinki, Finland, in June 1963, reporting that Labin had submitted a proposal “worked out by him with a Czech pair skater, concerning a compulsory program of two-and-a-half minutes.” After referring the proposal to a committee for study, the council approved its introduction on a trial basis at the 1964 and 1965 European and World Figure Skating Championships;
  • A registered letter from Labin to Vosátka, dated Aug. 27, 1963, enclosing the ISU’s Communication No. 350, announcing the introduction of a new two-and-a-half-minute compulsory connecting pair program at the 1964 and 1965 European and World Figure Skating Championships. Labin promised to recount to Vosátka in person in September how he managed to pull off “this miracle” (of winning acceptance for the program).
  • ISU Communication No. 350, announcing the introduction of a new two-and-a-half-minute “compulsory connecting program for pair skating” at the 1964 and 1965 Europeans and Worlds. It closely matches Vosátka’s proposal.

A photo of him in competition from 1958:
 

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