TORONTO — Don Jackson had a worried look on his face as he rushed around Forest Hill Memorial Arena on a December afternoon, searching for something he never forgets but appeared to have forgotten on this day.
“I need to check my car,” Jackson said, his perpetual smile straining at the edges.
And so he checked his car, double-checked his skate bag and, finally, sensing defeat, called his wife, Barbara, at their home in Whitby, Ont., — a 45-minute drive away — to ask her the question he already knew the answer to:
“Did I leave my skates at home?”
Indeed, he did. Don Jackson, the 1962 men’s figure skating world champion, a 1960 Olympic bronze medalist, the first skater to land a Triple Lutz in international competition and, at age 77, a kindly coach to a bunch of ankle-skating-three-and-four-year-old-kids, had forgotten his skates. The crisis was resolved moments before class when a fellow coach handed Jackson a spare pair of “Don Jackson” brand figure skates — with his name etched in the blade.
“These are the right skates,” Jackson said, laughing. “They’ve got my name on them.”
Skates named after Don Jackson, the 1962 world figure skating champion.
They were a size and a half too big, but still. Jackson and his younger brother, Bill, partnered with Bauer to manufacture Don Jackson skates beginning in 1966. The business thrived. And no wonder: the elderly skating coach was once the most famous skater in the world — a history-maker who cemented his legend by successfully nailing the Triple Lutz at the 1962 worlds.
A Lutz jump was something rare and tricky: to execute it a skater must rotate counter-clockwise in the air. Jackson’s Triple Lutz was monumental, because he pulled it off during one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in the history of his sport.
The scene was Prague, Czechoslovakia, and an arena jammed with 18,000 people. Millions more were watching on TV. Dick Button, a two time Olympic champion, was commenting for ABC. Jackson’s chief rival, Karol Divin — the local hero — had a commanding lead.
And then came the 21-year-old Canadian.
“My music started, and I took a deep breath,” Jackson says. “My first jump was the Triple Lutz. All I could think of was — think of your arms, bend your knee, keep your head up and rotate.
“All the rhythm was there for me, and I did it, and I was happy, but after I landed all I could think of was, ‘concentrate,’ because I remembered one boy landing a triple jump and falling right after, because he looked over at his girlfriend in the crowd.”