Baier skates into Olympic history

Picture by IOC

Berlin-born figure skater Ernst Baier first made his name in singles competitions, though he was unfortunate to come up against Austrian great Karl Schäfer, who won the men’s world title seven times in a row between 1930 and 1936, during which time Baier collected two bronzes and two silvers. The German also finished fifth behind the gold-medal-winning Schäfer at Lake Placid 1932.

By the time he made his second Olympic appearance at Garmisch 1936, Baier had teamed up with Maxi Herber in pairs competitions, the duo winning back-to-back German and European titles in 1934 and 1935 and also finishing third in the worlds in the first of those years.

Competing in both the singles and pairs competitions in Garmisch, Baier faced a hectic schedule. He kicked off on 8 February with the compulsory figures in the men’s event, which was dominated by the imperious Schäfer, who was placed first by seven judges and held a healthy 13-point lead over Canada’s Montgomery Wilson, with Great Britain’s Henry-Graham Sharp and reigning German champion Baier just behind in third and fourth respectively.

Five days later, Baier was in action in the pairs with Herber. Credited with some major innovations in the sport, among them parallel jumps, the German couple turned on a sparkling display for the crowd and the judges, seven of whom awarded them first place and the remaining two second, giving them a handsome victory over Austria’s Ilse and Erik Pausin and Emilia Rotter and Laszlo Szollas of Hungary.

Twenty-four hours after winning pairs gold, Baier was on the ice again at the Olympia-Kunsteis-Stadion for the men’s free skate. Producing another superb performance, he climbed up to second place overall, beating Austria’s Felix Kaspar to silver by just seven tenths of a point, but still finishing some way behind the untouchable Schäfer.

A German singles champion again in 1936, 1937 and 1938 and a European bronze medallist in 1936, Baier continued his richly productive partnership with Herber after the Garmisch Games, the duo winning four consecutive European and world titles between 1936 and 1939.

They became man and wife in 1940, and had three children together. After the war, they staged a number of ice shows, while Baier also pursued a career as an architect, designing a number of Berlin metro stations before moving into coaching in the 1960s. He died aged 95 on 8 July 2001 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the place where he decided to make his home.