Episode #69: Donald Jackson

November 2013
An interview with Donald Jackson, four-time Canadian Champion, 1960 Olympic Bronze Medalist, show skater, coach, author of several books, creator of Jackson skates, and member of more than a few halls of fame. He’s most notable in the history books for being the first person to land a triple lutz in competition (see video below) and was the subject of a short documentary called King of Blades (see that video below too). He talks about how many times it took him to pass the first figure test, that tremendous triple lutz, how he worked on quad salchows, and why it’s his fault that Carmen is so popular for skating music. 1 hour, 27 minutes, 12 seconds.

King of Blades, Stanley Clish, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Thanks to Fiona McQuarrie for transcribing these interview highlights:

On his most embarrassing skating moment: After I won the world championships and I started skating with the Ice Follies, we only came to Toronto and Montreal, and my first trip was to Toronto, to the Maple Leaf Gardens. And there they had a full house, they had advertised me, and there was a great big picture of the Queen at the front of the building. So I came out, they gave me this nice introduction, there was lots of applause, and I went out and did my axel and I was supposed to stop at the bang boards. And I fell. I had to pull myself up at the bang boards and all I could see was the Queen, and I started to giggle [laughs]. It was kind of funny being announced with all that I had done, and all of a sudden I’m sitting on my…seat [laughs].

On starting in skating: I was in a public school that had a little carnival, and I didn’t have skates, I had to borrow skates, and my mother created a costume. She dressed me as a snowman and I won first prize for the costume. And then they had races afterwards, and I couldn’t skate very fast, and I mentioned to my mum very casually that I’d like to learn how to skate. So that was it. And the year went by, and in the summer I was swimming in the Oshawa creek, which you wouldn’t do now,  and I met David Lowery there, he was with the Oshawa skating club, and he said, well, why don’t you join us and you can learn how to figure skate. I was fortunate that I was born in Oshawa, in Ontario, because the skating club was the fifth largest club in Canada. The president was Dick McLaughlin who was also a world judge, and the club had someone in every event at the Canadian championships. So I was fortunate to be here with a club that strong.

I loved what I was doing and I stuck with it. I had second-hand figure skates, girls’ skates dyed black, and that first year I played a lot of tag. And on Saturdays they had a special day where they had what they called the Grand March, where you lined up in ones and came around and then came back in twos, then fours, then eights, and then sixteens. And we’d get at the end of the group and they’d swing you around the ice and you had to keep your balances. And we had races where they put benches on the ice and we had to skate under them, and then we’d have to skate backward to another bench, and then step over it and skate forward.

So the club gave me a bit part [in a carnival] where I was the runaway child. They had a fellow with a big skirt, and he was wondering where I was, and I was under the skirt. So I came running out and he chased me off the ice. That was my spot. And to get the spot, my first coach, Nan Unsworth,  had to go to the executive and ask for me to be allowed, because you usually had to be at the club for a longer time to get a bit part. I think it helped that I was a boy and there weren’t that many boys in the skating (laughs).

On developing as a skater: I took from Ede Király, who was from Budapest and who was second in the world championships in 1939 behind Dick Button. He had the double axel the same year that Dick Button had the double axel. So he left from behind the Iron Curtain, as it was then, and because our club president was a world judge, he knew Ede and he hired him in Oshawa. I signed up for lessons with him, but not that many people did because they wanted to know how this coach would be. Well, a lot of people from out of town came to take from Ede, and he was wonderful. He helped me with my freeskating, and he wanted to have the figures relate to the freeskating. And he was a young coach, and he used to chase me, or it looked like chasing me, around the ice, and I’d do my jumps. For example, I’d be skating backward and he’d be holding my hand, and then he’d let go and I’d do my lutz jump.  And a lot of the older coaches thought, oh, this young coach, he’s got a lot of energy. But Ede wasn’t pushing me, he was giving me rhythm. And in my teaching, rhythm is a very important part of skating, and I’ve used it from that time. Because he was pushing me, he didn’t really care too much about the takeoff, he was more concerned about the jumps and the speed. And so I wasn’t afraid to fall, and that helped me, I think, in the later years.

He also didn’t worry about me passing the figure tests. He wanted me to have a good foundation, and he knew where he was going with me, of course. My mum and dad were thinking, oh, gee, Don’s not improving because he’s not passing the figure tests. My first figure test I had to try seven times, and by then, I thought I’d got a good foundation for the second test because I had to try the first test so many times, but it took me four tries to get the second. I don’t know how my parents kept me in skating because of that, but they had Ede telling them that it was good, he knew where I was going to go, and failing those tests made me work on the fundamentals, the basics of the skating. And I guess it paid off because I passed all my other tests on the first time.

On figures: In those days, if you were a good free skater, it didn’t matter because you had to get those figure tests, and at competitions figures were worth 60% of your mark. When they had the runoffs for the Canadian championships, they had the school figures first, and if you weren’t in the first ten skaters in the figures, you didn’t get to do the freeskate. There were some excellent freeskaters who never got to the Canadian championships because they were discouraged because of that or couldn’t get the school figures up to par. The figures were what we called the ABCs of skating, or like the scales on a piano.

I didn’t want to see the school figures go, but I think what happened was that with television coverage they would see, for example, Trixi Schuba winning the championships. And she was a good freeskater, but not an exciting one. So they changed the figure marks to 50% and she won, and I remember the press asking her, how come you won? And she said, I just followed the rules. She was so good in the school figures that she won.

There were a lot of games played with the school figures, because the general public couldn’t see something like a flat on a turn. But I think the new system has done a lot for skating. They don’t have the figures, but they still have the short program and the long program. Last year, Patrick Chan had a good lead in the short but in the long he seemed to struggle. And Denis Ten really skated well in the long but because Patrick had a good short program, he still won. And the audience couldn’t figure that out, the same as when we had school figures. What has happened now is that they’ve got television. People can see the very best skaters in the world right away. In my day, we didn’t have television, but at the Canadians and the North American championships, we had David Jenkins and Hayes Jenkins, and Dick Button before that, and Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss, along with our Canadian skaters.  So we saw the best, and I had something to look up to so I could improve. Nowadays the skaters can go out there and watch television and see the best in the world, and they know where they have to go, and everyone’s improving so much more in the freeskating and in the presentation.

So in the long run they are missing the school figures, and the good skaters still have good edges, but overall it’s good for skating. And it’s more fair. In my day if you were the champion and you went out and maybe you fell on a jump, well, they’d give you the benefit of the doubt. But now, if the champion falls, that’s too bad. You lose those marks. So the person who comes in for the first time has a chance of being up near the top. You’re not being put in a pigeonhole. In that respect, it’s very very good and more fair for the skaters.

On being coached by Pierre Brunet: Before him, I had Otto Gold, who was the coach of Barbara Ann Scott before she won the world championships. Our arena in Oshawa burned down and so I traveled to three or four different cities to skate. Because our club was a big club, our members started going around to do carnivals and shows, and that’s when I started doing comedy. And if I was booked to do a comedy program, I made them let me do my [competitive] program as well, so I could practice it. I went to the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa, and I was almost going to go to England to train because Ede had a lot of help from Arnold Gerschwiler who was a top coach there. I had a one-way ticket to go, but Minto got a partial sponsor who would pay if I took from Otto Gold, so I went there. I liked Otto because he had good skaters around, and he was excellent in his school figures, and that’s what I felt I needed to work hard on.

So I was there for a while and I ended up being the top skater there, and I wanted to change again, so I went to take from Pierre Brunet, who was teaching in New York City. I wanted to take from him because he had Carol Heiss and many of the top skaters. They were doing so well he had the top three [US] senior ladies, with Carol Heiss, Nancy Heiss, and Carol Wanek, all from the Skating Club of New York. I was training with them and Alain Giletti and Alain Calmat. Alain Giletti was a world champion and Alain Calmat was third when I won in 1962. We were all good friends and we were always pushing one another. Then they all turned professional in 1961, after the Olympics, and there was a junior skater who was there and myself, and I didn’t have the inspiration. So I came back to Toronto to cut down on costs and took from Sheldon Galbraith.

On living with the Heiss family in New York: I was staying at the Belvedere Hotel, which was across the street from the Skating Club of New York, which was on top of the old Madison Square Gardens. It was a beautiful hotel when Mr. Brunet was there, but it wasn’t much of anything when I was there in 1957 [laughs]. And then the Heisses invited me to stay at their place. Mr. Heiss was a baker and so he used to go early in the morning, and he would drive Carol, myself, Nancy and Bruce to the subway line so that we could get to the rink in time to be on the ice at 7 am and do our figures before going to school. I was there for a couple of years, and then a skater invited me to stay at her place because she was going away to school. And her family lived at the Dakota [apartment building] on West 72nd Street. I had no idea what a building that was. That was where John Lennon lived and he was killed right in front of there.

On the triple lutz: It was Ede Király that gave me the wanting to do it. Otto Gold worked more on the school figures, and I worked on the jumps on my own. Pierre Brunet worked with me on it, but he told me, Don, you have to have the rest of your program, you can’t have a diamond in the rough. So he worked on the music and choreography — he was the one who chose Carmen for me. I guess I was the first one to use it and then a lot of people after that, I guess you can blame me [laughs]. But it was a strong piece of music and I liked it. When I went to Sheldon Galbraith, I started to do the triple lutz with him. In summer I landed it once one day and three times the next day, and then I sprained my ankle. In the winter I didn’t do it again until just before Christmas. And the reason I put it in my program at the world championships in 1962 was because I wasn’t falling, I was touching down with my free foot in maybe less than a quarter-turn cheat. And I thought, well, the people won’t see that, the judges won’t see that. So I did it not knowing that would be the first year that ABC Wide World of Sports and Dick Button would be covering the championships.

On being the first North American skater to use stretch material in costumes: The French boys, Alain Giletti and Alain Calmat, had a tailor over there, and they took me to him and he made a costume for me in the new stretch material that was being used for ski pants. And that’s the one I wore in 1962. But it still didn’t mean I was going to put my hands over my head. In my day, we had what we called monkey suits, and if you put your hands over your head, you would lose your neck because the collar would come up. You would try to have as many gussets as possible under the armpits so that the jacket would stay down. So we men really didn’t put our hands over our heads too much, but later we did, and then people like Toller Cranston came in and did everything possible [laughs].  When I went into the Ice Follies, I didn’t know how to move my hands, so they told me for a man to present himself, start moving the hands from the hips, and for a woman, start moving the hands from the breasts. It would give a different look, and I felt very comfortable presenting in a way that I didn’t do in the amateur skating. In amateur skating, you didn’t turn your hands over to say, come on, audience, what do you think?

On his first world championships in 1957: To get there, I skated a show in Northern Ontario, and I was able to practice my figures during the day, I did my program at night, and then I went back to Toronto via Colorado Springs. That was the only way I could afford to go. I didn’t have a coach, and I remember I saw David Jenkins doing triple loop jumps, and I thought, wow, he crossed his legs. I did the triple salchow but I didn’t cross my legs. So I ended up tenth in figures, fourth in freeskating, and seventh overall, and when I got back to Ottawa, I did the triple salchow and I tried crossing my legs, and I landed it clean. And I thought, why wasn’t I told this before? I was doing a backspin in the air instead of a forward spin, and because of that backspin, in later years I was able to do three triple salchows in a row. On the loop we used to jump and do a big open loop and then cross, and my triple loop wasn’t consistent because it was slowing me down by bringing my free leg across, against the rotation. Now the skaters just turn into it, and why didn’t we think of that back in my day? The pioneers of this backspin in the air were Gus Lussi, Edi Scholdan, and Sheldon Galbraith. I remember Mr. Galbraith, when I first took from him, and I did a double flip, he said, Don, just relax and let your foot cross into a backspin position. So I did, and I turned two and a half turns, and fell hard, and tears came to my eyes, and he came over and said, Don, I saw what I wanted to see. I didn’t know if I should cry or be happy because I did what my coach wanted [laughs]. But that showed just how much more rotation you got when you crossed your legs. When I did the triple lutz, it wasn’t until 12 years later that it was done again in international competition, and that’s not because it’s a hard jump, they’re all doing it now, but I think it’s because they had to work on the school figures which took so many hours. And they didn’t have time to work on the freeskating and learn new things.

Mr. Galbraith helped me [at the 1957 worlds] because I was on my own, and he gave me some advice to make me more comfortable. Colorado Springs was a very small ice rink, they had a couple of rows of seats on the side, and bear and moose heads on the wall and all that, and they wanted to get more people, so they put seats on the ice, at the red dots for hockey and back from there. And that was good for me because I had no idea or anything about the altitude. I arrived the day of the opening ceremonies, and I skated on the fourth or fifth day, which was probably the worst day to do the freeskate, so having the ice cut down helped me. But I felt sorry for the Europeans being used to those big-size ice rinks. It must have been very difficult.

On the 1960 Olympics: Alain Giletti came third in figures and third in freeskating, and ended up fourth. And I was fourth in figures and second in freeskating, and just the way the ordinals worked, I ended up third. But then two weeks later in Vancouver, Alain Giletti was world champion. He won the figures, I won the freeskating, but when they totaled it up, he had the majority of the first places. And maybe it was good that happened because I stayed in for another two years.

The Olympic competition was outdoors, and Pierre Brunet had myself and Carol Heiss. She skated before the men. And we had Sheldon Galbraith for the Canadian team coach, and Mr. Brunet had to split himself between myself and Carol. So many times when I was out training, he was with Carol, for which I don’t blame him, he started her off and she was probably going to be Olympic champion. So Mr. Galbraith had a student there, Wendy Griner, and I remember in the mornings, when we did our figures, it would depend when the light would be on the ice and how hard the ice would be, but it would always be better to have the last lesson with him. But he would flip a coin, and sometimes it would be Wendy who would be first and then I would get the better ice. But I respected him for that, because he was the coach for Team Canada and Canada was paying his way there. So I respected that in the man.

I was in the dressing room getting my skates on for my freeskating program, and someone came in and said, Don, you’re supposed to be on the ice warming up. And I said, no, there’s one more skater. And I didn’t realize because I had never checked the rink to see who was supposed to be on, but someone had dropped out of the last group because they had hurt themselves. So the ISU had put the person from the group before into the last group. And so I rushed to get out there, and I wanted to warm up but I didn’t want to warm up too much because I was supposed to be the first one to skate, and I got off the ice and I was waiting for them to call my name — and they called someone else before me, so I had five minutes to recuperate. And I’ll tell you, since then I’ve never gone to a competition or had anyone at a competition where I haven’t checked with the ice captain to see if anyone has dropped out. You learn your lessons [laughs]. And years later, the guys who were playing the music told me, Don, we knew you weren’t on the ice, so we played the music a little longer to give you a little bit more warmup [laughs].

On competing and testing: We didn’t have summer competitions. We only had the Canadians, the North Americans, and the Worlds. So the summers were the time when you worked on the new things. I worked very hard in the summer and then I’d go to Lake Placid for their big Labor Day show, and then they had dance tests, so I tried my dance tests with Dorothy Ann Nelson, who was a world competitor for the United States with Pieter Kollen. And I passed my golds in dancing. And I remember when I was training with Otto Gold in Lake Placid, I would put everything in my program, and I would fall many times. And the spotlight men used to have games they would play, and I didn’t know this at the time, but they used to put their spotlights tighter on me so I couldn’t see where I was going to jump, and they would have bets as to how many times I would fall. They weren’t being mean, they were just having fun.

And whether I fell or not, you learn from your mistakes. My consistency really wasn’t that good because my different coaches were trying to teach me consistency. Pierre Brunet saw me doing my axel and I might be at a 45-degree angle and I would be able to land it, like a cat. So he had me do loop jumps and double loop jumps for a long time, because he said, if you’re taking off on one foot and you land on the same foot, and you’re at an angle, you’re going to have a bad landing. So I worked at that for a long time. And then I went to Sheldon Galbraith, and I had the consistency at about 75%, and he said, Don, are you willing to work on your double axel and get it 95%? And I said, yes, not knowing that I would be working on the back edge and forward edge before I jumped for six weeks with just single axels. Because his idea was that you should be relaxed when you step from one foot to the other, to use all that energy for the jump, the height and the spin in the air. And when you’re young and you have a double axel which not many people can do, you want to show off, and I couldn’t show off because I was only allowed to do a single axel. But it paid off.

On the 1961 plane crash that killed the US figure skating team: In 1961 we had the North American championships, and the Americans won the ladies, and the Canadians won the other three. We went from there [to the world championships], and I remember waving to the guys, saying, oh, we’ll see you in a few weeks. And that was the last we saw of them. I was in New York City training with Pierre, and that was the first year that Pierre did not have anyone in the world championships. And I think if he had had someone, I probably would have been on that plane for sure. However, I found out years later that the president of the USFSA, Ritter Shumway, had gotten in touch with the CFSA president, Doug Kimpel, and asked if we’d like to go with the Americans because they’d be able to get more free seats by having more people on the plane. And Doug said no, because the Americans had the television, they had the good skaters, and he thought the Canadians would be lost in the shuffle. And we were going to go on our own time later on. Well, I was in New York with the Karins, the family I stayed with, and there was a phone call from my mother, and she said, is Don there? And Mrs. Karin said, no, he’s in bed. And my mother said, oh, thank God, there’s been a plane crash. And I was in bed and I heard the phone, so I spoke to Mrs. Karin and I found out what had happened. But the reason I was home was that I had a cold and Pierre said I shouldn’t go early to Czechoslovakia because there were better doctors in New York, so I should wait until I got over the cold. So that’s what we did, we were going to go the next day, and we didn’t know if [the worlds] were going to be on or off. So we had to go to the rink and practice that day, just in case it was going to be on. Then of course they cancelled it, and they had it in 1962 in Prague. And the Canadians all got together and did a tour in the States with some of the young American skaters, and I guess being the North American champion, the top skater at the time, I led that tour, for the fund for the Americans, the Memorial Fund. And so we were the ones that really got that thing going. And I was a pallbearer for many of the skaters I skated with.

On the 1962 world championships: I was the last person to skate the change bracket [figure] and I wanted to go on clean ice, but they said, no, I had to stay on the other ice. So I foolishly took the patch that was right by the boards, and I lined up my bracket with the boards, and of course the first tracing was off by about a foot.  So I corrected it on the next two tracings, and I looked at one of the judges, from England, and she was one that I was always told, if you look at her you’ll know if you had a good figure or not. And she had kind of a sad look on her face so I knew it wasn’t good. I lost 35 points on that one figure, and after the figures that day I was 45 points behind Karol [Divin]. So I was feeling bad, you know, and then Alain Calmat, who I trained with in New York, came up behind me and put my hand on my back and said, Don, you’ve got two more figures, and you’ve got freeskating, don’t worry. And I thought, I must look terrible, here’s my big competition coming up and saying, don’t worry about it, Don. I wouldn’t like to see someone saying darn, you know, I wouldn’t want to see myself that way. So I thought, okay, tomorrow’s another day, we’ll do our best. And fortunately, I did okay. I held my own on the last two figures and in the freeskating that evening.

When I was on the warmup [for the freeskate] I tried the triple lutz, not to land it but just to get the feel of the ice and the audience, and everything was fine, and I looked at Mr. Galbraith and put my thumb up, yes, I’m going to do it, and he put his thumb up. He was sitting up in the stands and there was a judge there who said, why are you letting that young man do that, and Sheldon said, he wants to do it, let him do it, he’s worked hard at it. So Karol Divin skated, and when I was going to go out, I looked at Mr. Galbraith, and said, is there room to pull up? And he said, Don, there’s room at the top. So I said, that’s all I want to know. I went out there and skated the best I could have skated at the time. I remember landing the triple lutz and stepping forward, I couldn’t hear the music because of the audience, but all I could think of was, concentrate, concentrate. I remembered years ago seeing a boy before me do a triple salchow and look up at his friends and then trip. So I was thinking of all the things I had to do in the program as I was told. I was a little nervous going out and standing there, but as soon as the music starts — it’s your friend. You have someone with you. And I’d trained with that music so long that it took me through the skating, and I skated it well, and I came back and didn’t know if I’d won or not because we didn’t have computers in those days. And someone came up to me and said, Don, unofficially we think you’ve won, but we don’t know. The only time I found out I won was when they made the announcement and I heard my name.

After I skated and I was in the dressing room taking my skates off, Karol Divin came in, and he said, Don, I could win that championship, but that’s the best skating I’ve ever seen. If I win, I’m going to give the gold medal to you, because you deserve it. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it, because working for ten or twelve years, and then to say you’re going to give up something like that, that takes a big person. And that’s why I loved skating, because I skated with people like that. We trained together, we skated the best we could, we went on the tours together, we were always good friends. His mother was there and she met my mother under the stands, and she said in broken English, your boy was wonderful, if my son was to lose, I’d be proud if he lost to your son. We never competed against each other, we skated with each other.

On triple jumps: The lutz wasn’t easy — I worked on it for about four years.  The double toe loop was just kind of a fill-in jump in my day, but later on I noticed that skaters doing the toe loop were checking with their arms. So when I was about 40 years old, I was at the Toronto Cricket Club, and I noticed that Mr. Galbraith had some skaters from Japan doing triple toe loops and double loops, and they weren’t as good as I thought they would be. So I thought, what the heck, a triple toe loop is exactly the same as the triple salchow, and I was doing those at the time quite easily, so I’ll just do the preparation, do a nice check, and put my toe in as if I’m taking off for my triple salchow. And I landed it. It was not hard, it was just that we didn’t have the right techniques in my day. I was working on quad salchows in 1962 with Mr. Galbraith, after I turned professional, and I had it with a little cheat. I certainly would have wanted to try it if I had stayed in [amateur competition].

I didn’t land any more triple lutzes after 1962. When I turned professional in the Ice Follies, the shows were on smaller ice surfaces. I only landed six in my life. The last one was at the world championships. I did try it on tour, and a lot of people would come up to me and said, oh, I saw your triple lutz in such and such a year, and it would be when I didn’t land it clean, but they would want to feel that they saw it, so I would say, thank you [laughs].

On turning professional: I wished I had stayed in until 1964, but it was mostly money. My brother was going to university for the first time, and so I felt — I had the offers from Ice Follies and Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice, and I just accepted the Ice Follies contract. We skated 420 shows a year, 47 weeks a year. We skated in San Francisco, in a small rink where the chorus learned the new programs, and then we skated the old show at night, and it was nice because they were getting their full salaries rather than getting rehearsal pay. And then we had our big opening in Los Angeles and the movie stars came, it was a big thing in those days.

I was in the show for seven years, and I probably would have stayed longer, but while I was in the show I got married and we had a child, and it was hard to travel with a family. So I left the show and thought I’d teach skating, but I ended up doing some shows and seminars, because I guess I was the only world champion at the time who was still skating. I did some coaching, and we had some more children, but the marriage didn’t work out, and I ended up moving to Ottawa and working at the Minto Skating Club as the executive director of the skating program. I met my wife Barbara there, she was also a teacher and a skater, and we’ve been married for 14 years. I did have one skater that went to the Olympics, Stan Bohonek, but I only had him for one year. I was really interested in teaching skating, but with all these exhibitions I was invited to, I found that it wasn’t fair to these young skaters to say, I have to go now and skate some shows or some seminars. So I started working with Osborne Colson in Banff, Alberta, and he was the first coach to have team training. I worked with him there in the summers and I was able to teach top skaters with him. In my last year of the Ice Follies, I asked him to teach me the choreography for one of my numbers, and he said, we’ll have to see how we get along, he didn’t just jump at the chance. And I respected him for that. And for years, we worked together. Ozzie was my best friend, and he coached Patrick Chan. I didn’t know until about five years ago that I was Patrick Chan’s first coach. When he was in Ottawa, he joined the Minto, and he was in my learn-to-skate program. His mother told me I was teaching him crossovers. I guess that’s where he got all his good edges [laughs].

On selling skating products: Max Gould, who was a judge and also a dancer, worked at the Bata Shoe Company, and he said, Don, you have a big name, why don’t you use it? He went to his friends in Bata, and my brother and I got started in the skating boot business, and then it just went from there. I was skating shows and carnivals, and by doing that I was promoting myself and promoting the skating boots. My brother was doing all the office work, and I guess I was a good boss for him because I never really bothered him [laughs]. He did his part and I did mine. And then we sold half the business to the Bauer corporation, and they took me over to Prague, and the people there made good boots and they knew the Bauer corporation, so they made the boots and exported them for the first time. And my brother bought out the Bauer corporation, and we had it for a few years, and then another group bought us out, and then I sold my name. So we’re out of the boot business but I still help them with the promotion. I remember going to a synchronized skating competition in Helsinki, and there were 32 girls on the ice, all of them Canadians, and they came first, second, and third, and they didn’t know it. And all of a sudden they started to play the national anthem and the three flags went up, and I got a lump in my throat. I still think about it now. It’s a great feeling, it’s like the Olympics. We also had a video series called The World of Figure Skating, on Rogers cable here in Canada, and it also promoted the skating boots. And it kept me active.

On his favorite freeskater: It’s hard to pick one. Every year I was able to go and work with the Canadian Press and give them information at the world championship, so I saw a lot of skating. But I remember two that stand out. One is Kurt Browning’s Casablanca. I was there in Prague watching that competition and I think that was an outstanding performance. And Brian Orser, he skated a professional championship in Ottawa, and he skated to Somewhere in Time. And I remember him starting out showing the figures and then building that into freeskating, and then showing the long axis of the figure and skating off. It covered his whole time in skating.

On skating now: I still do, but [the doubles] are getting harder and harder every year. I still do the axels and the double salchows and the walley jumps, and spins. That’s what I’m doing now. And I still do the Maltese cross, the old style figures that they used to do. It’s just like you’re going into a loop and then you change your mind, and you repeat it four times. It makes kind of a nice cross on the ice. It’s just a matter of balancing and practice.

On working with adult skaters: I know that they’re going to enjoy their skating because they’re coming because they want to skate. They don’t have their mothers telling them, hey, get out there and skate. They’re skating because they love it, and it’s wonderful. Maybe they’re just starting, maybe they’re dancing or maybe they’re skaters who are coming back, but when I teach them I want them to enjoy what they’re doing. I give them little tips on how to build for the edges and how to get flow, the basics. And some of the basics I start to remember only because I’m working with them and I’m trying to get something across to them. Some of the things that I do are just automatic, and you really have to start analyzing your own skating when you start working with the adults. I enjoy it, and the most important thing is that they’re getting out there and doing something that they love and staying fit. Myself, I’m fortunate that I’m still skating, and I’m loving it. I’m doing a life that I think anyone would like to have, doing something that they love.


About the Author
Yup, I’m a skating fan. But I’m a skater too. I compete nearly every year in the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, and am always thrilled to see my other skating buddies there. In my real life I work in marketing for brands that make positive changes in the world, and a mom of two rambunctious boys.

3 comments on “Episode #69: Donald Jackson

  1. Linda Phillips -frost says:


  2. Keith Lawson says:

    Great story of a great Canadian skater. Watched him perform in Barrie in 1971 and was most impressed. One of if not our greatest skating gift to the skating word and classy man to boot

  3. Mary Wallis says:

    Was in awe of Donald Jackson when I was a young teen skating out of Hamilton in the early 60’s. He was friends with the Caskie family and I was friends with their youngest daughter Cindy.
    Just great memories!

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