The Lou Marsh Legacy - Honouring Canada's Top Athletes

Robert Paul

Figure Skating

1959


Action photo of Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul

Action photo of Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul

Date
1950’s
Collection
Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

A Skating Dynasty

They were the dominant team in a rare Canadian figure skating dynasty. From 1957 to 1960, figure skating pair Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul owned the podium winning the World Figure Skating Championship in four successive years. To cap off a stellar amateur career they became the first North American pair to win Olympic Gold at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

Remarkably, save for the brilliant instinct of renowned coach Sheldon Galbraith, this triumphant pairing might not have materialized. Both skaters were pursuing promising singles skating careers, however Galbraith identified serious flaws in each. Bob Paul was very introverted and that impaired his competitive capability. Conversely, Barbara was overly buoyant and needed some toning down. Galbraith felt that if they worked as a team for a while they could help each other. They made such rapid strides it soon became apparent their great potential was as a pair.

Wagner and Paul did not leave a single thing on the table winning every major championship from 1957 through 1960.

Perhaps the best display of their superiority came at the 1959 World Figure Skating Championships in Colorado Springs. By their own admission they skated terribly. With Barb nursing a weak ankle and both struggling to acclimatize to the higher altitude they even dropped one of Barb’s double spins. Bob said afterward that they were tired before the end of the program and had several ‘fluffs’ all the way through. There was likely some modesty at play because the judges saw it much differently. They were ranked first by all nine judges making this their first unanimous international victory.

The 1959 competition was only the third time Wagner and Paul used an entirely revamped program. They believed they would be even better going into the 1960 Olympics!

Donald Gilchrest a Canadian judge in Colorado stated, “They’re a lead-pipe cinch for the Olympic Championships right now. None of the pairs here can possibly improve enough to give them an argument at Squaw Valley. They’re the best there are.” Proudfoot, Jim. (1959, February 26). “We Were Terrible” - Barb and Bob “The Greatest” - Judges. Toronto Daily Star, p.22.

His prediction would indeed be dead on!

Barbara Wagner, Bob Paul Recognized at Long Last Adobe PDF Transcript


Highlights

1952
Paired with Barbara Wagner
1954
Canadian Junior Pairs Title
1956
Canadian Pairs Title
1957
Canadian, North American, and World Pairs Titles
1958
Canadian and World Pairs Titles
1959
Canadian and North American Pairs Titles
1959
Lou Marsh Memorial Award
1960
Canadian and World Pairs Titles
1960
Squaw Valley Olympic Games - Gold medal
1980
Inducted into the World Olympic Sports Hall of fame
1994
Inducted into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame