Syers, Madge Cave (1881–1917)

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Syers, Madge Cave (1881–1917)

British figure skater. Name variations: Madge Syers-Cave. Born Madeline Cave in England in 1881; died in September 1917; married Edgar W. Syers (her coach).

Was the first woman to enter the world championship (1902), winning second and causing skating officials to create a special competition for women; won women's Olympic figure skating gold medal and a bronze in the pairs with husband-coach Edgar Syers (1908).

Born in England in 1881, Madge Cave was an excellent swimmer and equestrian; she also loved skating and was quite successful in skating figures. Her coach, Edgar W. Syers, introduced young Madge to the less rigid Austrian International style. Skating had been practiced in Europe since the Middle Ages, particularly in the Netherlands, where frozen canals were perfect for the sport. After the execution of Charles I in England, his exiled son Charles II brought skating back with him when he returned to claim the English throne. The English developed the shorter blade which made figure skating possible. The Austrians invented "waltzing" on the ice, free skating or the modern skating now so popular.

Madge Syers was trained in traditional English figure skating, but she adapted very well to free skating, winning the first English national pairs competition in 1899. In 1900, she placed second in international pairs events. Competing with her coach, the talented skater eventually married him, and the couple continued competition individually and together. Sometimes they competed against each other.

In 1902, Madge Syers entered the all-male world championship, the only woman ever to do so. There were no rules against a women entering the competition, so she was allowed to compete. She came in second to Ulrich Salchow, the great skater from Sweden who had invented the jump named after him. The next year officials closed the competition to women, but Syers had made an important point and a women's world championship was established in 1906. To no one's surprise Madge Syers won the 1906 women's championship, repeating her victory in 1907. In the meantime, she won the first singles championship in Britain in 1903 and defended it against her husband in 1904. In the 1908 London Olympics, Syers won the first gold medal in women's singles and a bronze in pairs with her husband. At age 35, Syers died of heart disease. She was inducted into the Figure Skating Hall of Fame.


Markel, Robert, Nancy Brooks, and Susan Markel. For the Record. Women in Sports. NY: World Almanac, 1985.

Karin Loewen Haag , Athens, Georgia