Prominent figure skating coach Peter Burrows passed away on April 9, 2014, in Port Washington, NY, after a valiant struggle with a brief illness. He was 75.
Burrows was born in Manchester, England on July 27, 1938. His first skating coach was renowned British coach Gladys Hogg at the Queens Ice Dance Club in London, England. He subsequently trained with the main coach of his career, Arnold Gerschwiler, in London and in Davos, Switzerland. His competitive record includes the British Novice, Junior and Senior Men’s champion titles, British Junior and Senior Pairs champion titles, as well as being a World Team member. He was slated to compete in the 1960 Olympics held in Squaw Valley, but withdrew due to injury. He went on to star in the BBC TV show “Hot Ice and Cool Music.”
In 1966, Burrows emigrated to the United States at the invitation of Hans Gerschwiler, where he began his American teaching career at the South Mountain Arena in New Jersey. He subsequently taught for the Skating Club of New York at the original Skyrink in Manhattan on 33rd Street. He worked extensively on Long Island, NY at Racquet and Rink and Twin Rinks during the 1970s. During his time at Twin Rinks in Port Washington, NY, he coached Dorothy Hamill in the period leading up to the 1976 Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, where Hamill won the Ladies’ gold medal. Hamill credited him for her win both in her autobiography “A Skating Life” and in a handwritten inscription, and his work with her established him as one of the most pre-eminent coaches in the United States.
In the late 1970s, Skip Butler, then manager of Racquet and Rink, made the fortuitous introduction between Burrows and Barry Wolkon, the owner of Sport-O-Rama in Monsey, NY. The Twin Rinks facility was about to close, and Butler had the idea that Burrows could help Wolkon build up the Sport-O-Rama figure skating program. Thus began a thirty-five year successful association that resulted in the bulk of Burrows’ teaching achievements. Sport-O-Rama was his home where he became a United States World and Olympic coach, as well as an international coach to skaters from Japan, England, Switzerland, Finland, Israel and Austria. He coached Elaine Zayak to her Junior World, and Senior National and World championship titles, in addition to her being a team member at the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. He was coach to 14 Olympians, 26 World team members and numerous United States national medalists. Among other luminaries he coached were Michael Chack, Rocky Marval, Calla Urbanski, Kyoko Ina, Jason Dungjen, Charlene von Saher and Tamar Katz.
He pursued a number of business enterprises through the years, directing a school at the Iceland arena in New Hyde Park, NY for 19 years, as well as managing schools in Staten Island, Bellmore and Long Beach, NY. He was, at various times, coordinator of US Figure Skating teaching seminars, director of the North American Training Camp in Lake Placid, NY and operator of the New York Island Center in Farmingdale, NY. He was a board member of the US Figure Skating Association and its Selections Committee, the Professional Skaters Guild of America (PSGA) and the Imperial Professional Skating Union (IPSU). Burrows was a PSGA master rated coach, inducted into the PSGA Hall of Fame and a recipient of the IPSU Gold Medal Award for training a world champion. His business endeavors further encompassed management consulting for Twin Rinks, the EAB Rink in Uniondale, NY, Wollman Rink in New York City, in addition to rinks in Staten Island, NY, the University of Hartford in Connecticut, White Plains, NY, Ayr, Scotland, the Newbridge Arena in Bellmore, NY and JP Igloo in Sarasota, Florida.
Burrows had a decades-long teaching partnership with Mary Lynn Gelderman. Together, they forged a formidable coaching team that produced many high quality skaters through the regional, sectional, national and international levels. The longevity of his teaching and business partnerships with Wolkon, Gelderman and his Sport-O-Rama family is a testament to his abilities and character. A strong tenet of his teaching philosophy was that “how you skate in practice is how you skate in competition.” Many of his former students went on to be very successful as skating coaches in their own right, as well as pursuing prosperous careers in fields unrelated to skating such as lawyers, doctors and investment bankers. Upon his passing, several of his students have noted that his work ethic and discipline instilled in them valuable life skills and treasured memories. Skating coach Billy Thompson observed on Facebook that “Mr. B,” as he was affectionately known, was “a coach’s coach.”
Burrows is survived by his wife, Katherine.
There will not be a memorial service at the present time. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in memory of Peter Burrows to Little Shelter in Huntington, NY.