In 1890 at the age of 21 James Smart had his first success, finishing fourth in the National Championships, and followed it up by beating the champion in a race at Wisbech. In December 1891 the National Skating Association decided to send him to the World Championships in Norway, he created a good impression on the Norwegians who taught him to ski, and on his return to England introduced the speed skate as we know it today, his own personal skates being made by ‘Heinie’ father of Sonia the greatest figure skater of her time, becoming one of Hollywood’s legendary film stars. He arrived back from Norway too late to participate in the British Championships and at the first opportunity soundly defeated the new champion.
The next championship to be held in 1892/1893, at the age of 23, was to be his finest year, three world records, the quarter mile, the mile and the mile and a half, whilst his brother Bob collected the world 200-yards record. So many firsts, he was the first winner of the Duddlestone Cup, he defeated leading continental skaters in winning the Prince of Orange Vase, he became the first skater to win the National Skating Association’s Gold Badge, and he became the British Champion at all the distances from the quarter-mile up to three miles. His record time for the quarter-mile stood until 1938 a period of 45 years. Above all he was always remembered for his grace and beauty of style on skates. In 1894 he represented his country in the World Championships in Sweden where he acquitted himself with a fifth placing, being at a considerable disadvantage on the oval courses, in direct contrast to the straight up and down English courses, the continentals being able to generate greater speed on the bends with their foot over foot cornering.
I wanted to share this family photo of James Smart with the community. Location: in a race at Wisbech.. Date: 1891.
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