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Skate Today



 Karen Magnusson’s skating story began at the Kerrisdale Arena in Vancouver when she was six-years old. Two years later she won her first trophy at their annual Club Competition.

“The minute I stepped on the ice, I wanted to figure skate,” the Vancouver native told Kevin McKay several years ago in an interview for Senior Living magazine.

The five-time Canadian champion enjoyed many highlights in her career.

In 1972 Magnussen carried the Canadian flag into the Sapporo, Japan Olympic stadium at the opening ceremonies.

“Being voted on by my peers – the whole Canadian team – was such an honor,” she told McKay.

At the closing celebration, she wore a silver medal – the only medal won by any Canadian in Sapporo.

In the 1972-73 season, the ISU bowed to pressure and lessened the percentage value of the compulsory figures and added a short technical skate to the singles competition.

At the World Championships in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, (currently Slovakia) Magnussen won all three events – the compulsory figures – the short skate – the free skate and was the first to be awarded three event gold medals. Magnussen and East Germany’s Katarina Witt (in 1984) are the only two ladies to ever achieve that accomplishment.

Magnussen made additional history at that ISU event.

“Figure skating was one of the last sports to give out solid gold medals, and the year I won was the last year they did (it),” Magnussen also told McKay.

During her competitive skating career, Magnussen earned bronze (1971), silver (1972) and gold (1973) World Championship medals.

After winning the 1973 top prize, Magnussen turned pro and signed a three-year $300,000 contract with the Ice Capades. Beverly Smith recently noted that it was the largest amount they had ever offered a newly turned professional skater.

Magnussen toured for four years and then settled down in her husband’s hometown of Boston. She began coaching figure and hockey skaters – the latter after Bobby Orr, the Canadian hockey legend, approached her about working with a local high school player.

In the late 80’s, her family returned to British Columbia, where she later became Skating Director and head coach at the North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver.

Magnussen continued teaching hockey players how to develop better skating skills. Over the years, she worked with a variety of NHL players.

Magnussen was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, British Columbia Sports Hall of Fame, and Skate Canada Hall of Fame.

The 1968 and 1972 Olympian was also one of the torchbearers for the 2010 winter games held in her native Vancouver.

The following year, in the pre-dawn hours of November 28, 2011, her life changed forever when an ammonia leak occurred at the North Shore Winter Club. As the Director helped assist skaters from the arena, she was exposed to the highly toxic gas that burned her lung tissue and vocal chords, damaged her vision and induced chronic fatigue syndrome.

The accident has taken its toll on the former coach who loved teaching kids and hoped to continue into her seventies and eighties.

In that interview with McKay five years ago, she expressed her love for coaching, “I absolutely adore it. I love the kids, and now that I’ve diversified into working with hockey players, I love that as well.”

Magnussen is no longer even allowed to enter an ice rink for fear that a fume could cause a severe reaction.

In addition to  health issues, Magnussen has lost her source of income and has struggled financially.

Recently Ted Barton, Executive Director of the BC Section of Skate Canada, chose to take some action.

“It’s so tragic to have everything taken away from her,” he stated.

Barton approached the Connaught Skating Club Director, Keegan Murphy about hosting a Tribute to Karen Magnussen for their 2015 biennial show.

Murphy was quick to respond. As a Junior Grand Prix level skater, he had been a recipient of funds from the Karen Magnusson Foundation. Also, Murphy’s mother, Eileen, had been a coaching colleague and friend of the Canadian champion.

“As a competitive skating organization whose members have received much valued support from her annual bursary, Connaught has decided to honor her skating career and dedication to figure skating by naming her as our beneficiary for this year’s ice show in hopes of raising some funds to help Karen and her family through a difficult period of their lives,” he said.

Magnusson’s poor health will not permit her to enter the skating rink for the Tribute, so a Meet and Greet was held on February 10. The last Canadian female World Champion signed autographs, posed for photos, displayed her medals and shared stories with her fans.

“It’s so important that the kids got to meet her,” said Murphy.

Over 100 skaters will participate in the March 14th Tribute at the Minoru Arena. Murphy has choreographed new programs for the kids to skate to a few of Magnussen’s exhibition classics.

Club members and parents have been busy preparing for the Tribute by sewing costumes and assisting with other pre-show activities. According to its producer, “the event is being run primarily by adult volunteers whose generation remembers Karen and admires her as a person.”

March 14th, 2015 – 6:00 pm
Stadium Rink – Minoru Arena
7551 Minoru Gate
Richmond, B.C.

Silent auction – 5 pm

 To purchase tickets or to make a donation

About Us

Skate Today was created in November 2004 to showcase the people of the skating world, skaters and coaches and others, who make figure skating and ice dancing a pleasure to watch for fans from around the world. The goal was to create a site that would give viewers an insight into the personalities of the people involved in this sport and to give you a more personal connection when watching them live at an event or on the television. Our staff knows how much time and dedication is put into this sport and that's why Skate Today was created.

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