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Walter Brainbridge remembers competing in ice dancing before it was an Olympic sport

Walter ‘Red’ Bainbridge participated in the 1948 Olympics in Switzerland by demonstrating ice dancing. Up to that point very little was known about that sport. Now 66 years later the United States has its first gold medalists in that sport.
ROCKFORD, Illinois --Walter ‘Red’ Bainbridge participated in the 1948 Olympics in Switzerland by demonstrating ice dancing. Up to that point very little was known about that sport. Now 66 years later the United States has its first gold medalists in that sport.

The United States has its first gold medalists ever in the sport of ice dancing thanks to Meryl Davis and Charlie White. No one is happier to witness that feat than one Rockford, Illinois man whose roots in ice dancing go back to the very beginning.
In the 1940s he wore glasses, and he had flaming red hair. His name, Walter ‘Red’ Bainbridge, and his partner was a woman named Lois Waring. They skated for the Washington figure skating club in our nation’s capitol.

“We were both singles skaters before we got together as dancers. We blended, and she was a perfect partner,” said Bainbridge.

They were two-time North American champions as teenagers. They got their Olympic break in 1947. That’s when Bainbridge received a letter from the U.S. Figure Skating Association inviting him and Waring to the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland to demonstrate the sport of ice dancing.

“I couldn’t believe it, and to be honest with you I said I don’t know how we can afford to go,” said Bainbridge.

Waring’s father took care of that paying both skaters expenses.
At the Olympics they skated to three songs one afternoon. So did a second couple from England and a third from Belgium.

“It was just to show what ice dancing was because it wasn’t known.
In those days when you competed we did what you call set dances. We did Fox Trots, Tangos, Waltzes. I was a big ham. I just enjoyed showing off. It didn’t sink in until later that hey this was something big.”

Bainbridge never thought it would be 38 more years until ice dancing became an official Olympic sport or 66 years until he would see an American couple in White and Davis finally win gold in the sport.

"It’s so pleasing to me now to see this couple they were skating to the music and every movement was just, ahh. I kind of feel kind of good because they finally took where I was involved in it from the start, and to see it finally come around to what it should be," said Bainbridge.

Bainbridge thinks we’re going to see more medals in ice dancing for the United States in the future thanks to Davis and Meryl and the growth of the sport.

By: Scott Leber
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