Skating tragedy remembered |

Skating tragedy remembered

On Feb. 15, 1961, Sabena Flight 548 crashed on a hillside close to Berg, Belgium.

The crash killed the entire United States Figure Skating Team including their coaches and family members who were on their way from New York to the 1961 World Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

It was the biggest tragedy in the figure skating world and caused the World Championships to be canceled that year.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the crash, the U.S. Figure Skating Association will hold an event and release the film "Rise," on Feb. 17.

The documentary, which was directed by Nancy Stern, features interviews and performances of world renowned skating champions such as Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Scott Hamilton, Brian Boitano, Michelle Kwan and Evan Lysacek.

The event, which features the film and a red-carpet session with these skating stars, will be broadcast live from the Best Buy Theatre in New York to 500 movie theatres across the country.

Park City’s own CineMark Holiday Village is one of those theatres.

Strike Fongeallaz, a member of the Figure Skating Club of Park City and a judge for the U.S. Figure Skating Association, said a majority of the nationwide the ticket sales will benefit the U.S. Skating Memorial Fund, which was established 10 days after the accident.

"The purpose of the fund was to keep these people in memory, but also help promote figure skating," Fongeallaz said. "The fund distributes money for figure skaters who need help, which most do, because skating is extremely expensive. It also distributes scholarships for skaters who want to further their education in college."

Fongeallaz said she knows of one local skater, coach Holly Cook Tanner of the Davis County Ice Rink, who has benefited directly from the fund.

"Holly, who is a lifelong member of the Utah Figure Skating Club, won bronze medals at the 1990 U.S. Nationals and the 1990 World Figure Skating Championships," she said.

Fongeallaz said the Figure Skating Club of Park City is still too new to benefit from the fund, but still believes it is important for the skaters and the general public to understand how the fund works and why it’s there.

"Our skaters have not come to the level where the fund will affect or help them, but it can happen in the future," she said.

Fongeallaz said she wants the young skaters of the FSCPC to be inspired by the film.

"The film is about the devastation of the plane crash and losing the entire U.S. team and their coaches, and what it gave rise to," she said, "Many were affected in different ways."

Fongeallaz cited Peggy Flemming as an example.

"Peggy became U.S. champion because of the gap left after the tragedy," she said. "She became U.S. Champion, World Champion and Olympic gold medalist much younger than she had expected.

"I’m hoping our skaters and anyone who comes to the broadcast are touched and inspired by the movie," Fongeallaz said. "’Rise’ continues to inspire the skaters of today and those skaters inspire future skaters, which I believe are skating at the Figure Skating Club of Park City."

The U.S. Figure Skating Association’s "Rise" event will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the CineMark Holiday Village 4, 1776 Park Avenue. Tickets are $10 and available at or

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