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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

BARBARA UNDERHILL

Inducted in 1988

Member Details

Date of Birth: June 24, 1963
Place of Birth: Pembroke, Ontario
Sport: Figure skating
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1978

Junior Canada figure skating champions - pairs

World junior figure skating championships, gold medal - pairs

1979-83

Canadian figure skating champions - pairs

1983

World figure skating championships, bronze medal - pairs

1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990 et 1993

World figure skating championships, gold medal - pairs

Honoured Member BARBARA UNDERHILL
Inspire

Story

It is difficult to quantify the chemistry of a team, especially in a sport such as figure skating, where outstanding pairs must combine individual excellence with flawless teamwork. But if longevity at the highest levels of success is any measure, Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini were one of Canada's most successful figure skating duos. Both began skating at age five, but they met at a summer skating school in Weston, Ontario, in 1977, when she was 14 and he 16. They immediately clicked on the ice, and within a year they were Canada's junior pairs figure skating champions headed for the world junior championships in Megève, France. Not only did Underhill and Martini capture the junior world title, they also won events in St. Gervais, France, and Oberstdorf, West Germany, earning a promotion to the senior figure skating scene as a result. At the 1979 Canadian national figure skating championships in Thunder Bay, they captured the senior pairs championship. It was the first of five consecutive national championships for the pair. They finished ninth in their first Olympic figure skating tournament in 1980 at Lake Placid but showed steady improvement at the world championships, finishing eleventh in 1980, seventh in 1981, and fourth in 1982. With the help of coach Louis Strong and choreographer Sandra Bezic, Underhill and Martini also excelled at other international events, winning at St. Ivel in 1980 and Skate America in 1981, to go along with victories in the 1981 Ennia Cup and at the invitational NHK Trophy in 1980 and 1982. The breakthrough at the world championships for Underhill and Martini came in 1983 at Helsinki, where a near-flawless performance earned them a bronze medal behind pairs from the Soviet Union and East Germany. It was Canada's first Olympic or world championship medal in pairs figure skating since Debbie Wilkes and Guy Revell had won world championship bronze in 1964. The success brought Underhill and Martini national recognition and raised hopes for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. An ankle injury to Underhill forced the pair to skip the Canadian national championships, but they still headed to Sarajevo as medal favourites. Those hopes were soon dashed as Underhill and Martini skated the short program. During their sit spin, Underhill caught an edge - unrelated to her ankle injury, she would later assert - and fell to the ice. It was an error from which the pair could not recover, and they finished the Olympic competition in a disappointing seventh place. Compounding their disappointment was the fact that the world championships were only a month away. But after finding the will to continue competing and with Underhill wearing a more comfortable older skate boot, the pair took to the ice in Ottawa in front of a crowd that was solidly behind them. Underhill and Martini skated two of the best performances of their careers, the long program bringing 10,000 spectators to their feet. They became the first Canadian pairs figure skating world champions in 22 years by defeating the defending Olympic and world championship pair from the Soviet Union. Underhill and Martini retired from competitive amateur skating following the 1984 world championships and turned to professional skating with the Ice Capades. Underhill and Martini were the pairs gold medallists at the world professional figure skating championships in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 1993. They also finished second in 1996 and third in 1985 and 1995. The pair has also remained in the public eye as regular commentators on Canadian telecasts of Olympic, world championship, and other major figure skating events. Martini has also pursued a career coaching. Underhill has devoted much of her time to working with the child safety foundation established in her daughter's memory. The Stephanie Gaetz Keepsafe Foundation was launched one night in May 1998 when Underhill and Martini performed a farewell show at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens.


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