Ladwig presents Swiegers with Sportsmanship Award

2011 Governing Council event page

Rudi Swiegers and Mark Ladwig
photo by Peter Zapalo
(4/30/11) - Saturday's Governing Council meeting started on a proud note for U.S. Figure Skating with the presentation of the 2011 Sportsmanship Award by U.S. Olympic pairs skater Mark Ladwig to his friend and fellow competitor Rudi Swiegers of Canada.

This act of sportsmanship took place at the 2011 Four Continents Championships in Taipei City, Chinese Taipei, when Ladwig's skate broke at the start of his short program with partner Amanda Evora. Ladwig fell on the program-opening double toe and upon getting up, stopped skating completely. Evora continued for about 10 seconds before realizing something was wrong.

"I thought he had sprained his ankle," she said at the time.

Thankfully not an injury, the problem was that the heel of Ladwig's skate came apart from his boot. Ladwig, after explaining the issue to the referee, was given three minutes to fix the problem and finish the skate or be disqualified.

Along with coach Jim Peterson and team leader Doug Williams, Ladwig searched for a solution. As it became evident that Ladwig was going to attempt to re-screw the blade to the boot, another set of skates appeared.

Swiegers, who would later end up with the pairs bronze medal with partner Paige Lawrence, saw from the stands what was going on. Knowing that he and Ladwig wore the same size and use boots from the same manufacturer, he offered them to his training mate (Swiegers and Lawrence travel several times a year for training sessions at Evora and Ladwig's rink in Florida).

"I realized there's nothing he could do for that," Swiegers said. "When the boot's broken, the boot's broken. I truly believe if the situation was reversed, Mark would have done the same for me."

Ladwig figured lacing up the loaner skate was the best option. In 38 seconds, he put on the skate and returned to the ice. Aside from a shaky sit spin, Evora and Ladwig finished the program without incident and were one of four teams credited with level four footwork.

During the sportsmanship award presentation, a video clip was shown of the incident, followed by Williams' perspective of what transpired.

After realizing that there was no way to fix the skate in time, Williams said he caught a glimpse of Swiegers racing to the rescue.

"It was like here comes a Canadian Mountie, with skates in hand," Williams joked. "Rudi's boot comes over Mark's shoulder and I thought, 'This is going to be interesting.'" After watching Ladwig and Evora finish their program, which included a difficult lift, Williams said he was thoroughly impressed with the team's resolve under pressure.

"It was one of the most incredible experiences I've ever had at an ice rink, as a team leader, not only because of their sheer willingness to finish the program but because of the sportsmanship and camaraderie that Mark and Amanda had with Rudi," Williams said.

He added that Peter Krick of the ISU became emotional after watching this act of sportsmanship.

Swiegers, who attended Governing Council with his mother, said he was at the other end of the arena when he saw what was taking place.

"I thought, 'What can I do for Mark?' I remembered we wore the same size because Mark had sharpened my skates when we had trained together in Sarasota, Fla.," Swiegers said. "I got up to take my skates to Mark and my coach asked where I was going. I told her and she said, 'sit down, sit down.'"

Swiegers, instead, dashed across the arena and handed his skates to his friend.

U.S. Figure Skating President Patricia St. Peter ended the presentation by recognizing and praising Swiegers' mother for raising such a quality person, which drew a standing ovation from the audience.

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