Norval Waite Baptie’s mother was born in Scotland, which might have something to do with his unusual first name. The name Norval is from the Scots Gaelic language, is pronounced as nor-vel and means “from a village in the north.” Baptie is usually thought to be French but is actually from the ancient Greek or Roman “baptistes” meaning to bathe or dip.

Born in Bethany, Ontario on March 18, 1879, Norval Baptie’s family moved to Bathgate, USA Dakota Territory, at a the age of one. His adult career influenced the entire sport of skating as a world record speed skater, designer of blades, impresario, performer, figure skater, and coach. Before his death November 26, 1966, he saw himself inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1963.

The Pembina County Historical Society reports “He won his first race when he was only 10, on a patch of ice in Bathgate. He was Northwest senior champion at 13 and beat the world amateur speed skating champion at 16.” Somewhat out of context they continue, “In 1914 he organized the first ice show.”baptiebarrels

Ever competitive, Baptie offered a 1917 challenge to race for “love, money, or charity.” It appears the few who accepted the challenge later withdrew. At the height of his speed skating career, Baptie would challenge skaters to a race in which he would allow his opponents to skate in their normal style and he skated backwards.

He shattered every amateur and pro speed speed skating record over his speed skating career, winning nearly 5000 races. Various records claim he lost just one race in his entire career; however, the December 28, 1920 New York Times calls him an “undefeated champion” when he performed (and won) a race two years after his racing retirement.

Expanding his scope to stunt and figure skating, he set new records for skating backwards, barrel jumping, and stilt skating. He is pictured in San Fransico in 1916 doing a 3 jump (waltz jump) over 10 barrels for a distance more than 20 feet. He is credited with originating the adagio airplane spin.

 

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