What is the greatest tragedy in life?

Plane crash in 1961The greatest tragedy in figure skating history

34 athletes, coaches and supervisors of the US Figure Skating Association met on February 14, 1961 at New York Airport. They all want to go to the World Cup in Prague via Brussels. America is the dominant nation, especially in the individual disciplines. The women have won the last six world titles - the men have won twelve since 1948.

The passengers also include the Canadian pair skating champions Maria and Otto Jelinek. You have been friends with the US ice skaters for years and want to fly to Europe together.

Shortly before he goes on board, Otto Jelinek tells in a documentary on US television that his trainer calls him. The coach's plane is delayed.

"He told me very clearly that there was no way we should fly without him."

73 people are killed in the crash

Maria and Otto Jelinek stay in New York and wait for their trainer while the US team flies to Brussels.

"We said goodbye to them, wished them a good flight and said that we would meet again in a few hours."

But this does not occur. The plane crashes on approach to Brussels - all 72 passengers and one person on the ground are killed.

Figure skating is a family affair at that time. Couple walkers are siblings or spouses - and often train their children after their career ends. Like Maribel Vinson-Owen, the nine-time US champion and Olympic third party from 1932. She is the trainer of her two daughters, Laurence and Maribel. All three die in the accident.

USA lose entire generation of figure skaters

In the rubble, the rescue teams find, among other things, a half-charred "Sports Illustrated". On the front page - 16-year-old Laurence Owen, hailed as "America's Most Exciting Figure Skater".

The world championships in Prague are canceled after the tragedy. America loses an entire generation of figure skaters as a result of the accident. It was not until 1966 and 1969 that the world champions, Peggy Fleming and Tim Wood, came back from the USA. The exact cause of the crash has never been clarified.

One year after the death of his former friends and colleagues, Otto Jelinek wins gold at the World Cup. But to this day he cannot be happy about it.

"I often go to bed thinking that it could have happened to me too. And I can feel a little guilty. It's not fair. Why were they all on the plane - and not me? Although I really wanted to be there . "

(dpa / UPI) died 50 years ago - ice princess and Hollywood diva Sonja Henie
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