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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

ELLEN BURKA

Inducted in 1996

Member Details

Date of Birth: August 11, 1921
Place of Birth: Amsterdam, Holland
Date of Passing: September 12, 2016
Sport: Figure skating
Member Category: Builder

Career Highlights

1946, 1947

Dutch Women's Singles Title

1978

Named to the Order Canada

1992

Inducted into the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame

Honoured Member ELLEN BURKA
Inspire

Story

Ellen Burka is one of the most successful figures skating coaches Canada has ever seen. A fine skater in her youth, Burka claimed the 1946 and 1947 women's singles titles in her native Holland before immigrating to Canada in 1950. Once here, she turned her talents toward coaching at the Toronto Cricket, Skating, and Curling Club. Burka's unique training techniques and groundbreaking choreography brought enormous success to Canada's figure skaters. Over the next five decades, she produced 26 Canadian medalists at both the Olympic and world championship levels. Some of her most successful pupils included her daughter, Petra Burka, three-time Canadian champion and 1965 world champion, and Elvis Stojko, six-time Canadian champion, two-time Olympic silver medalist, and three-time world champion. Burka is particularly known for her role in the life and career of the famous Toller Cranston. She let this burgeoning young athlete and artist live in her basement for several years, accepting his artwork as payment for her coaching. For her time, teaching, and hospitality, Burka was rewarded when her prized pupil claimed the Canadian senior men's championship six times, as well as a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympic Games. Together, Burka and Cranston changed the face of men's figure skating by introducing a new, more expressive style of skating. This emotional new approach to choreography, termed "Theatre on Ice," required that the movements of the skater be closely tied to, and even emulative of, the music. While it was frowned upon at first, this more communicative and artistic style of skating has now become the norm. For her significant contribution to Canadian figure skating, Burka received the Order of Canada in 1978. She was also inducted into the Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1992.


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