Host City: Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
Venue(s): Ice Stadium, Cortina d'Ampezzo
Date Started: February 3, 1956
Date Finished: February 3, 1956
Format: Each judge ranked each pair by Ordinal Placement from first through last place. The Ordinal Placement for each judge was based on Total Points awarded by that judge to the pairs, with the tiebreaker being Sporting Merit (2nd mark). Final placement was determined by a Majority Placement rule. Thus, if a pair were ranked first by a majority of the judges, that pair was placed first overall, and the process was repeated for each place. If no absolute majority for a place existed, the tiebreakers were, in order: 1) Total Ordinals, 2) Total Points, 3) Compulsory Figure Points.
At the World Figure Skating Championships in Oslo 1954, the Canadian couple from Toronto, Frances Dafoe and Norris Bowden, emerged as the new star couple in pair skating. After coming 5th in the 1952 Olympics, they developed their program to include new elements as twist lifts, throw jumps and overhead Lasso lifts. They defended their World title in 1955, this time in an extremely close contest with a pair which represented the European “classical style”, Sissy Schwartz and Kurt Oppelt from Vienna. Schwartz/Oppelt showed excellent form two weeks before the 1956 Olympics by winning the European title in Paris with a very impressive program.
The pair skating event in Cortina 1956 turned out to be a very controversial competition. It started after the performance of the young German couple, Marika Kilius (only 12) and Franz Ningel (19). The audience was very dissatisfied with the judges and started to throw oranges and other items into the ice. The competition had to be stopped for 45 minutes to calm down the audience and clean the ice.
In a very close contest, Schwartz/Oppelt won the gold medal with the scantest possible margin. Their Canadian rivals Dafoe/Bowden made an outstanding program, but faltered on a lift, causing them to finish after their music ended. The Nagy siblings from Hungary, Marianna and László, repeated their placing form Oslo 1952, winning another Olympic bronze medal.
European critics claimed that the Canadian pair’s overhead lifts was not covered in the rules and accordingly not permitted, but this view was strongly opposed by the North Americans. The discussions continued after the World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen one week later, which ended with another close victory for the Austrian couple. Five out of nine judges had Schwartz/Oppelt in first place, the remaining four went for Dafoe/Bowden. This turned out to be the final international championship participation for both pairs involved in the controversy.
The controversy was finally settled in 1959, when a revision of the rules for pair skating was accepted by the ISU Congress.