Canadian pair break figure skating's mould with 'death spiral'

The Olympic Games have always been the greatest showcase of all for innovation, for the world to see how a sport can suddenly be revitalised. Dick Fosbury's new high jump technique changed his sport forever and so did the double axel demonstrated in St Moritz by Dick Button.

There was another great piece of innovation among the figure skaters, though, and it came from Canada's Suzanne Morrow and Wallace Diestelmeyer. The pair decided to use the arena of the Olympic Games to perform a move that had never been seen before – but which was to become a familiar sight for future generations.

The move was the one-handed “Death Spiral”. It's now something you see in pairs skating all the time – the man in the pivot position, his toe anchored into the ice, holding the woman by a single hand while she circles him on a deep edge with her body almost parallel to the ice. It's so well-known now that it is a required element in pairs skating.

In 1948, though, it was new. The death spiral had been performed, but always with the pair holding on to each other with both hands. To use a single hand was revolutionary.

It was enough to impress the judges into placing the pair into bronze medal position, but also to assure them of a place in the sport's history. In later life Suzi Morrow was to become a skating judge, a role she played for half a century, including serving at the Olympic Winter Games. In 1988, at the Calgary Games, she became the first women to take the Olympic judges' oath. She also worked as a veterinarian.