October 29 in Russian history. Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin.

Today, the Olympic Committee of Russia celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first gold Olympic medal for Russia.


Nikolay Aleksandrovich Panin-Kolomenkin won the Olympic gold medal in special figures (figure skating) in London.

Nikolay Kolomenkin was born in a village in Voronezh oblast in 1871. Skating was a common entertainment in Russian villages and Nikolay liked it. In 1882 his parents divorced and his mother took him to St.Petersburg. He graduated from the physical and mathematical faculty of the St.Petersburg University, worked in a state institution, continued skating and was interested in cycling. In 1897 he participated in a skating competition, but was not successful. To prepare for the next competition, he began training. He tied towels around his feet to enhance the balance. In the same year he became the champion of St.Petersburg, but by that time he chose to get a nom de plume (or, rather, nom de patin), Nikolay Panin.

Since 1901, Nikolay participated in championships of Russia and became the champion in 1901, 1902, 1903, 1905 and 1907. In 1903, when St.Petersburg celebrated its 200th anniversary, the International Skating Union decided to hold the world championship in the Russian capital. Panin competed with such famous skaters like the world champion Ulrich Salchow from Sweden, ex-champion Gilbert Fuchs from Germany, champion of Austria Max Bohatsch and champion of Germany Ernst Lassahn. Salchow became the new world champion and Panin won the silver medal.

In February 1908, before the Olympic games, Panin became the winner of the Alexander Panshin Cup in St.Petersburg, besting Salchow for the first time.

The 1908 Summer Olympic games were held in London, from 27 April till 31 October. The Games were longer in those years. The Winter Olympic games did not exist in 1908, but the interest to the figure skating was so high that this sport was included in the program of the Summer games. The figure skating was scheduled on 28-29 October. Besides Salchow and Panin, among the participants there were Heirich Burger, who had won the silver medals of two world championships, Per Thorén, bronze medal winner, Geoffrey Hall-Say and Arthur Cumming, two outstanding British skaters. During the compulsory figures competition on 28 October, Panin performed very well, but the results were disappointing:

Results/Referee Grenader, Britain Horle, Sweden Hügel, Switzerland Sanders, Russia Wendt, Germany

Salchow loudly commented every movement of Panin and after a little scandal he was issued an official warning by the referees. Referees from Sweden and Switzerland (Hügel was a good friend of Salchow) gave only the fourth place to Panin, trying to push him further from the first place. Protesting against the bias, Panin refused to participate in the free skate program.

On 29 October, the sportsmen competed in compulsory figures. They presented the drawings of the figures they planned to demonstrate to the referees. The figures presented by Panin were so complicated that the some referees deemed them impossible. Salchow announced he would not take part in this part of the program and Panin became the champion with the best result in the history of compulsory figures: 219 points out of 240 possible.

Ironically, Panin-Kolomenkin never thought that he was a figure skater first of all. His favorite sports was handgun shooting. In eleven years (1907-1917) he was the self-perpetuating champion of Russia in the revolver shooting. And even in 1928, when he was 57 years old, he won the handgun shooting on the Spartakiad of the Peoples of the USSR (a kind of Olympic-like games, but not restricted to professional sportsmen, which was practiced in the USSR).

In 1915-1917 Panin-Kolomenkin was the head of the National Olympic Committee of Russia. In 1919-1930 he worked in some state financial institutions. Since 1930 he became a trainer in figure skating. During the War he was also a trainer, but not in sports. He taught guerilla war to the Soviet partisans. After the war he returned to the Lesgaft institute of physical culture and sports in Leningrad. Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin died in 1956.

Update @2008-10-29 14:22:33: A bit too late, I found a longer and a better article about Nikolay Panin: History of figure skating: Nikolay Kolomenkin. This is an excerpt telling the same story:

October 1908, London. Russia is represented by wrestlers A.Petrov, N.Orlov, G.Demin, E.Zamyatin and the only figure skater N.Panin. Among the participants in figure skating were seven time world champion and six time European champion Ulrich Salchow (Sweden), two time silver World medallist, silver and bronze European medallist Henry Burger (Germany), bronze World and European medallist Per Turen (Sweden), Irwin Brown (USA), Nicolai Panin, Arthur Cumming and John Hall-Say (Great Britain). Figure skating competition was included in the Olympic Games program for the first time. "Princess Hall", a covered London skating rink with artificial ice was chosen for its holding. Hardly could the Russian athlete, who recently defeated Salchow, perform the second compulsory figure - "the eight" -as the Swedish athlete shouted: - It's not "the eight"! It's curved! It was a lie. "The eight" was excellent. So, here is the psychological attack, - Panin thought. - Well, Mister Salchow, let's see if I swallow your bait. When Panin was performing his next figure Salchow shouted out: - He is not in a good shape! He can't do anything! And this time the judge still kept silence. Nicolai Panin protested. The Swedish athlete was reproved. One should see what followed then! The Swedish figure skater insulted and threatened Panin in reply. Finally Salchow was put into his proper place. This made him angry and he lost his control. As a result the Swedish athlete was not in his best form when performing some first figures. German judges Veldt and Sanders put Panin on the first place, Swedish judge Grenander put him on the second and Herle and Hugel, a Salchow's close friend, put the Russian athlete on the fourth place. The protest of the Russian team was left without attention. Panin declared then that he was not going to perform his free program: he didn't expect fair marks from Hugel and Herle. Then George Sanders, the Russian judge and a friend of Panin interfered. He managed to persuade Panin that the case with judges wouldn't repeat because Ulrich Salchow and Henri Brokau left the competition, as they understood how worthless it would be to continue. When Nicolai Panin was performing the last and the most difficult figure, "impracticable" according to the newspapers one could hear the stormy applause from the judges' box. His result was the best. Having gained 218 points Panin became the Olympic Games winner champion. That was his first Olympic gold.

The victory at the Olympic Games uncovered Panin's incognito. An unpleasant surprise awaited Panin "the triumph of Russian sport" (as journalists called him) in St. Petersburg. Up to that moment Nicolai Panin was safely protected from undesired talks about his pseudonym at his work place. But the secret was disclosed. The director of the department where Panin worked received a page from a newspaper. There was a big photo of a figure-skater performing some difficult pattern on the ice. The photo was encircled in red. The text below said that it was Nicolai Panin, many-time champion of Russia who had just became the gold medallist at the IV Olympics Games in London. The director was stricken by the resemblance of the champion with Nicolai Kolomenkin - an assistant of tax inspector. - You must stop skating right away, - demanded irritated director from Panin. - It is incredible - a department worker appearing in tights before public!.. - It is useful for health… body development… And of course the honor of the Russian State on international arena. Is it bad? But the director didn't want to hear anything at all. - Either the department or sport.

1 comment:

smithsan said...

One hundred years ago to the day Nikolai Panin-Kolomenkin beat several favourites to claim the gold in figure skating. Pilot Nikolai Kamanin was also born in Russia in 1908. He became one of the first Heroes of the Soviet Union for taking part in the valiant 1934 rescue of the crew and passengers of the steamship Chelyuskin, ice-bound in the Arctic Ocean. For many years General Nikolai Kamanin headed a cosmonauts training center near Moscow.
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