Videos: Petra Burka, Figure Skating
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My mother was the Dutch Champion in Holland and when she won the Dutch Championship she was pregnant with me, so it was already in my blood. When she came to Canada to coach she brought my sister and I to the rink almost like baby sitting. So I started at a very early age because my mom was teaching. When I was about 10 I started doing double Axels, I taught myself. And one of the coaches, Mr. Osborne Colson said to my mother, “Ellen I think you should pay attention to your daughter. She’s doing double Axels.” I said, “Mom I can do a double Axel, I taught myself.” So I guess in a way by watching other people and just by being at the rink I self taught.
I trained with Donald Jackson, he was a few years older than me. He was the first one to land a triple Lutz in competition, and so I thought I want to do the triples too. And that was sort of the beginning of how I got into triples and being the first female to ever do one. I actually did triple Lutz’s, but in my time triples were not lady like so you know double Axels was about it. And what I would do is I had really beautiful double Axels, I just love to jump, I can even remember the feeling as I talk. And in order to be better than anyone else I would do more double Axels in a row in a program than anyone else would. The triple came along when I needed to win the Canadian title and I needed some ammunition and so my mom and I worked on the triple salchow which was it’s the first triple of the whole step of triples, and no other woman had done it before. And I landed it in practice, put it in the competition and won (second).
I have to say Innsbruck, the Olympics in ’64 are really so different from the Olympics we see now. First of all in those days you skated or you competed for the joy of competition. You did not receive any money. Today sports is big business. In those days you competed for the pleasure of competition and winning. I really loved being in the village. And after I had won the Bronze medal I went to the village to just have fun and hang out with the other athletes and I all of a sudden someone said, “Petra, the police are looking for you.” And apparently because I’d won a medal I had to do an exhibition, I didn’t know about it, and it was between the hockey game, in the intermission of the hockey game. So the police found me, I had to dress in the police car, put on my skates in the police car with the siren going. They dropped me off at the arena, I ran over, they announced my name and on the ice I went.
Winning the Bobbie Rosenfeld Female Athlete of the Year was like a launching pad towards my, the following year where I won the World title. It was such an honour to win that award at the end of such an incredible year. I think of all the female athletes who have, who trained that year to be the best and I was chosen to be the one on top of everyone else. I can only feel so proud and flattered.