Florence Madeleine Syers (née Cave) (1881 - September 9 1917), best known as Madge Syers, was a British figure skater. She was the first woman to compete in the sport, and became the first female World and Olympic champion. She won the Olympic gold medal at age 27; to date, she is the oldest Olympics ladies' figure skating gold medalist. She also won the Olympics bronze medal for pairs with her husband and coach, Edgar Syers.
Syers was a proficient figure skater, as well as a gifted swimmer and equestrienne. She was introduced to the freer, less-rigid international skating style by a new coach named Edgar Syers. This style was made famous by Jackson Haines. Madge and Edgar married in 1899. They competed in individual and pairs events.
Syers entered the 1902 World Championships when she discovered that their rulebook did not specify the gender of the participants. At the time, it was unheard of for women to compete in sporting events and it never occurred to the International Skating Union (ISU) that a female would ever even try. Syers took the ice and finished second in her ankle-length skirt. There were many people thought she should have won, including gold-medalist Ulrich Salchow, who reportedly took off his medal and gave it to her. After her win, Championship organizers closed the loophole and passed a rule prohibiting female ice skaters from competing against men. The reason given was that female skaters’ long skirts made it difficult for the judges to see their feet.
Syers shaped a new fashion trend when she began to wear her skirts at mid calf. In 1903, a new competition, the Championship of Great Britain was launched. It was open to both men and women. Both Madge and Edgar entered this new championship. Madge defeated Edgar to win first place. Edgar was placed second. She won the competition again in 1904. In 1906, a new World Championship for women was created. Syers entered and won the title. She repeated her win again at the World Championships in 1907. Pair skating was introduced at the 1908 World Championships.
With her wins at both the 1906 and 1907 World Championships, Syers began to eye the 1908 Summer Olympics, which featured the first Olympic figure skating events. She won the first Olympics ladies’ figure skating gold medal (CNNSI, 1998). She also paired up with Edgar and they won the Olympic bronze medal (CNNSI, 1998).
Syers retired from figure skating soon after the 1908 Summer Olympics due to her failing health. She died of Influenza in 1917, at the age of 35.
(with Edgar Syers)
- British Olympic Association. (2005). British Olympic Association centenary facts May 24th 1905 – May 24th 2005. Retrieved February 26, 2006, from http://www.olympics.org.uk/press/pressdetail.asp?boa_press_id=418
- CNN/SI. (1998). Results of 1908 Olympics figure skating event. Cable News Network. Retrieved February 26, 2006, from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/olympics/events/1998/nagano/medals/1908Results.html
- Encyclopædia Britannica. (2006). Information on Madge Cave Syers. Retrieved February 26, 2006, from http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9125257
- Hering, B. (2006). Figure skating history—legends: Madge Syers. Private Ice Publications. Retrieved February 26, 2006, from http://www.skatefic.com/figure-skating-trivia/
- Smith, Beverley. Figure Skating: A Celebration. ISBN 0-7710-2819-9.