The impact Reg Park had on the Canberra figure skating community is almost beyond the capabilities of a column to quantify, such was his incredible influence on the sport.
Growing up in St Kilda, Reg started skating when he was 11 years old. By 21 years he was the Australian Champion. In 1953 he won the World Professional Championship.
In his heyday, Reg was a global megastar in figure skating, performing, choreographing and producing professional ice shows across Europe and Britain.
He was part of the famous Wembley Ice Spectaculars in London and was the star of the BBC television ice skating shows.
In short, he was one of the greatest ever figure skaters to come out of Australia. His towering presence on the ice was inspiring; his dance experience helping his ice choreography.
By chance, he ended up in Canberra in 1981 and the rest is history. He fell in love with the city and generations of figure skaters were the beneficiaries through the Reg Park National Capital Skating School operating out of the Phillip Ice Rink.
Long-time manager of the Phillip Ice Rink, John Raut, says Reg made an immediate impact.
“He had an aura about him. He was a star and was very well known overseas. He was the guy who established skating in Canberra and he coached many of the next generation.”
In fact, Reg coached in Canberra for 33 years.
One of his star pupils was Miriam Manzano who started skating under the coaching of Reg when she was just 11 years of age. She went on to become the Australian Junior Champion at 15 years, before being crowned National Champion a few years later. Miriam was to become National Champion six times.
Reg coached Miriam for 20 years.
“Reg was very kind and generous. He looked after all his skaters,” she recalls. “Your dreams were his, and he was very driven to ensure we achieved our goals. I loved his old school methods of coaching, and we were very lucky to have him here in Canberra.”
On her Facebook page Miriam, who is a coach herself these days, paid tribute to Reg.
“I feel truly blessed to have been part of your journey and I thank you for inspiring me to teach through your love of skating.”
Speaking to a number of people associated with the sport in Canberra, they all recognise Reg’s ability to instil in others a love of figure skating, effectively sharing his passion.
Sally Patton, a long-time coach in Canberra, was fortunate enough to spend much of her time alongside Reg.
“I’ve been coaching for close to 39 years and it was Reg and I coaching together on the ice for 33 of those years. He had an aura about him; he’d light up a room, and he was great at maintaining kids in the sport.”
Reg also created the ACT Christmas Ice Follies Show.
At the age of 84, he was inducted into the ACT Sport Hall of Fame. He had earlier been inducted into the Ice Skating Australia Hall of Fame as well as receiving the Australian Sports Medal in 2000.
This year will be the 20th year of the Reg Park Artistic Trophy.
Reg left an indelible positive impact on the lives of so many in Canberra. We are poorer for his passing but his legacy lives on through so many.
A celebration of Reg’s life will be held on Sunday, 13 October 2019 at 10:00 am at the Tootsie Gallery Cafe, 289 Comur Street, Yass.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Flossie’s Kitten Rescue, Canberra.