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'You never forget those moments'

Reigning Canadian world champion female figure skater Karen Magnussen first fell in love with the whimsical sport as a young girl in North Van in the late 1950s.   - Photo courtesy of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.
Reigning Canadian world champion female figure skater Karen Magnussen first fell in love with the whimsical sport as a young girl in North Van in the late 1950s.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

The first time Karen Magnussen’s son set foot in that Lynn Valley rec centre eponymous with her name, he exclaimed: “Mommy, are you someone famous?”

Indeed, she is. There has not been a female Canadian World Champion figure skater since her win in 1973.

“Yes, with all the Canadian skaters that we have, it’s pretty remarkable that I still hold that record,” Magnussen told The Outlook from her home in Upper Lonsdale.

Of course, before 1973, there was the 1972 Olympics and what made Magnussen the household name she is today.

“My journey to even win a silver [medal] was just a huge one,” recalls Magnussen.

There were no rinks in North Van in 1957 when she first showed an inclination for figure skating. So Magnussen, who was born and raised in Edgemont Village, would travel over town to the Kerrisdale Arena to practise those impressive acts of dexterity.

“I just loved being on the ice,” says Magnussen, clearly still captivated by the whimsical sport. “I couldn’t wait to go, every day.”

Fast forward to the day before the biggest moment in her life, the women’s figure skating final at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. It was the last event of the Games that year, and Canadian contingent had come up dry in the medal race.

“There was a lot of pressure being put on me,” recalls Magnussen. “Reporters would say to me: ‘Do you realize there is no Canadian that has won a medal?’ You are our last hope and our last chance.”

She set out to do the best job she could do, despite having the weight of Canadian Olympic gold on her shoulders. Magnussen remembers the “phenomenal” compulsory figures executed by the Austrian skater, her closest competition.

Sitting in the “kiss and cry” room waiting for the final results, Magnussen had her fingers and toes crossed, hoping that she had done enough to close the point gap.

Then came the news: A silver medal for Magnussen. “I was hugging and jumping around,” recounts Magnussen, now 61. “It was just so exciting. You never forget those moments.”

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