It's a rare occurrence of late when Harvard can produce a national champion, and it is certainly something to write home about when the College can come up with two championship athletes at once, but that's just what happened early this month in Seattle. Dick Button annexed his sixth consecutive National Senior Figure Skating crown, and freshman Dudley Richards took first place laurels in the Junior competition
On the strength of these performances both Button and Richards are now en route to Milan, Italy, for the World Championships held on Friday and Saturday. They will compete against each other in the Senior competition, at which 60 skaters representing 12 foreign countries will be present.
Although the two Crimson athletes have known each other for years, this will be the first time that they have skated against each other. Richards earned the right to join the American World Championship team by winning the Junior title. For Button it will be old stuff--besides six U.S. Senior tities, he won the World Title last year and the Olympic competition in 1948.
Richards was nine or ten when Button first met him at skating competitions, and since then he has steadily moved up behind Button. Button has been in the Senior competition for the past six years, but Richards has yet to break into the older circuit. He broke his neck in 1947, and was unable to compete for the whole next year, which set him farther behind the older Button. Richards' victory at Seattle, however, will put them in the same league at last.
At Seattle this year the two skaters were even better friends than before because of Richards' entry into Harvard this fall. Although they haven't been practicing together because of different styles of skating, Button has been "very inspiring" according to Richards. "He really made me work, both by professional advice and by telling me I could do well."
"Before this I've never been so worked up seeing another skater compete," Button said later. He added that while he was down at the end of the rink he "skated that program harder than Richards did."
The skating competition is divided into two parts, 40 percent free skating, and 60 percent school figures. In the school figures there are some 60 compulsory figures that each competitor must learn. Six particular ones are chosen from these by the judges for the skater to execute. Hence, he must know all of them perfectly. After the school figures each skater has a chance to skate his own program with his own inventions--the free skating.
Button introduces a new figure almost every year into his free skating program--one of his own invention.
In the competition next week at Milan, Button is expected to extend his mastery over the rest of the crop of the world's figure skaters, but he will have a new competitor on his own team in the person of Junior titleholder Richards.