North American Pair Skating Legend:
Barbara Wagner won the 1960 Olympic pair skating title with Bob Paul. She and Robert Paul were the first pair skaters from North America to win Olympic gold. For over forty years no other pair from Canada or the United States won the Olympic title.
Early Life and Skating:
Wagner grew up in Toronto, Canada. Like many children who grew up in Canada, she began ice skating in her backyard on hockey skates. She remembers running into the house to tell her mother that she "Made a turn on one foot."
A child who lived across the street from Barbara invited her to "Ice Carnival," a local ice show that took place at the University Skating Club at Varsity Arena on the University of Toronto campus. She was inspired to begin figure skating after seeing that show, and joined the skating club there. It was an ice dancing club, so for two years, Barbara did not know there was another part of skating that involved jumping and spinning.
Once she found out that there was more to figure skating than ice dancing, Barbara was encouraged to join the Toronto Skating Club. She applied, but did not hear back for an entire year. When the club was repainting their office, they pulled a desk away from the wall, and found her application on the floor. It had been lost accidentally and had been on the floor for a year. The club immediately accepted her as a member and she began skating lessons with Sheldon Galbraith.
Matched Up With Bob Paul:
Sheldon Galbraith noticed that Wagner was small, cute, quick, and had potential as a pair skater. She was about twelve or thirteen years old when Mr. Galbraith matched her up with Bob Paul. Until that time, she had only really done ice dancing and had little experience with jumping, spinning, or figures. Bob Paul was already a very accomplished singles skater, and was a year older than Barbara.
The young pair team worked very, very hard. About two years later, they won the Canadian Junior pair title.
Impressive Competition Record:
- 1954 Canadian National Junior Pair Skating Champions
- 1955 Canadian National Senior Pairs Silver Medalists
- 1955 North American Pair Skating Bronze Medalists
- 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 Canadian National Pair Skating Champions
- 1957 and 1959 North American Pair Skating Champions
- 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960 World Pair Skating Champions
- 1960 Olympic Pair Skating Champions
Olympic Memories:Barbara Wagner remembers that the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley went by very, very fast. Walt Disney was the one who gave the skaters their medals at the Olympic medal ceremony. The World Figure Skating Championships took place in Vancouver a couple weeks later and there were parades and celebrations.
Professional Skating Career:
Shortly after winning the 1960 Winter Olympics and the 1960 World Figure Skating Championships, Barbara Wagner and Robert Paul signed a contract with Ice Capades. They starred and toured with the show for four years.
In the early 1970s, Wagner briefly returned to show skating and was the pair skating partner of ice skating show legend "Mr. Debonair" Richard Dwyer.
In 1962, during the time Wagner toured with Ice Capades, she married 1952 Olympic Men's Figure Skating Bronze Medalist, James Grogan. The couple had a son.
Figure Skating Coach:
After Wagner's four years with Ice Capades ended, the Grogans settled down and began to teach skating in northern California. They taught in both Burlingame, California and also in Squaw Valley, California, at the same arena where Barbara won her Olympic gold medal. She coached in Squaw Valley for fifteen years. She continues to coach skating in the east coast and has taught skaters from the beginning to the national and international levels.
Some of the students Barbara Wagner trained include Juli McKinstry, who won the US National Junior Ladies title and competed in the World Figure Skating Championships. She also coached Charlie Tickner who won the 1980 World Figure Skating title.
Founder and Director Of One of the First Summer Skating School Programs:
In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, many indoor ice arenas closed during the summer. In order to keep training, figure skaters would go away to beautiful places such as Lake Placid, New York to continue training and skating.
Barbara Wagner had spent her teen years skating in Schumacher, Ontario, Canada. In the town of Schumacher was a community center ice arena and curling rink owned by McIntyre Porcupine Gold Mine. Sheldon Galbraith's students spent the summer in that small town that was 500 miles north of Toronto. Skaters from all over the United States and Canada would sleep on cots in a gym and have fun skating and enjoying the summer. It was a bit like skating camp.
Barbara and her husband, Jimmy, took that idea to Squaw Valley. The Olympic Village Hotel sold vacation packages to families. Ice skating and figure skating programs were included in the vacation packages. Skaters from all over the world began to spend their summers in Squaw Valley. Eventually, parents of skaters would rent houses in Squaw Valley and house skaters as they enjoyed training in Squaw Valley for several weeks every summer. Also, individual families would rent cabins or houses and take part in the Squaw Valley Summer Skating School program.
The skaters that came to Squaw Valley during the summer remember a fun training atmosphere, skating in weekly ice shows, hiking, swimming, horseback riding, and hay rides. Juli McKinstry's mother, Mary McKinstry, boarded the female skaters and Charlie Tickner's family boarded male skaters.
Author of a Figure Skating Book:
Barbara Wagner is the author and illustrator of Skating 102, a figure skating book that describes ice skating moves and terms. The book also shares figure skating history. Training worksheets are also provided. The book was the combined effort of Wagner and one of her former skating students.