Sadly, we have lost an enigma of ice skating journalism, with the death of Sandra Stevenson.
Sandra Ann Catherine Stevenson was born on 27th July 1941 in Greenock, Scotland, where her father, a Royal Navy Officer, was stationed at the time.
Post-war the family settled in Coventry, but tragedy struck Sandra at an early age when her mother died.
Sandra was both clever and independent. At 14 she found herself a “Saturday job” and used the money she earned to fund the bus fare and entrance fee to the Ice Rink in Solihull. This teenage interest put her on a path that shaped her adult life. She progressed to lessons and passed her Preliminary Ice figure test, at Birmingham, in 1958, going on to pass further tests in both figures and ice dance.
At the same rink, also in 1958, a young John Curry came 3rd in The Walker Trophy for under 10 Boys. Sandra could not have envisioned the part he was to play in her future life.
As I have already mentioned Sandra was a clever young lady and made her family very proud when she gained a place at the prestigious University of St. Andrews. This was the first University in Great Britain to admit women but in the 1950’s it was still only the academically excellent women who would have been awarded a place, to follow in the footsteps of Agnes Blackadder, the first female graduate of St Andrews.
It was while at St Andrews that Sandra first tried her hand at writing. To help with her expenses she obtained apart time job with D C Thomson publications, most known for The Beano and Dandy comics and My Weekly magazine.
Some of her early pieces were printed in the comic ‘Bunty’, a great favourite of mine and many other young girls, before stepping up to magazine pieces.
On graduating, Sandra gained employment in the chorus line of professional skating shows and was soon appearing, as a member of impresario Gerald Palmers ”Carnival of Ice 1962”, as a member of the Corps de Ballet. She knew that she would never become a principal and made the decision to combine her love of skating with her love of writing but she also needed money to keep her afloat financially.
To this end Sandra moved to London for a secretarial job but was soon offered another job, by a visitor to her office, as what was then termed an airline stewardess. This deviated from skating but as an avid traveller she was happy to accept. Thus, another chapter in her life started that compelled her to put down roots. The job required her relocation to Los Angeles, which she disliked, but when her base changed to New York she loved the city so much that it remained her home for the rest of her life.
It was not long before she was challenged, and her perspicacity shone through when, with colleagues, she fought the airline for female equality with the male employees and the right of the women not to rely on youth and appearance to keep their positions!
Sandra loved travel and even after leaving the airline travelled extensively. During her travels she began attending Ice skating major championships and made many contacts in the sport. At the same time she was still writing about the sport.
In 1968 she covered her first World Championships as a freelance writer and covered every British, European, World and Olympic Championships from then until 2014.
In 1971 Sandra became the Ice Skating correspondent for The Guardian, later transferring to the Telegraph where she remained until 2014.
Sandra covered the Grand Prix series and all the major ice skating events in the world and made the journey from New York to England every year to cover the British Championships for her newspaper.
She travelled to so many countries, often leaving one for the next without a chance to return home in between. This led to some interesting situations and she would amuse us with anecdotes. One, I remember, was a trip to Japan where she forgot about the dateline and after a long flight arrived at her hotel in Japan in what she thought was the following day only to find that because of the time difference it was still the day she left and had arrived a day too early!
She also contributed to many Ice skating magazines both online and on paper and so it was no surprise that when the BBC proposed a book about skating they asked Sandra to write it. “The BBC Book of Skating” was published in 1984. She also had a hand in “Spice on the Ice”, The Karen Barber and Nicky Slater story. Sandra lengthened her name to Alexandra Stevenson, although she also still wrote under the name of Sandra Stevenson, as well as Sonja Springs.
Sandra felt privileged to report British gold medals during the glory years of John Curry, Robin Cousins and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.
She had an encyclopeadic knowledge of skating and personally knew almost all the major players in the sport. I know that whenever I asked her if she could put me in contact with anyone in the sport in any part of the world she was almost always able to do so.
Her health began to fail and she suffered badly from arthritis, but she still loved her job so much and enjoyed meeting up with her many friends in the media at major competitions. She entertained with her great sense of humour and was also was a great help to colleagues.
The extent of her dedication was evident when she attended her last event with a carer as her body was failing her but she was still able to turn in good copy for her newspaper, for the last timer. She was not about not let them down.
Soon after, in 2015, Sandra realized that she would have to give up her Manhattan apartment and made the move to an assisted living facility but by December 2016 her health was such that she required hospice care.
Sandra was such a presence at competitions that her absence was noted by all who looked forward to seeing her and by 2016 she was already missed.
We thank Sandra for making difference with a skating journalism career that spanned 50 years
Sandra died in the Calverton Hospital, Bronx New York City on 7th July 2018.