Dakota Datebook

Speed Skater, Norval Baptie

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The North Dakota winters might seem like they’re good-for-nothing, but the conditions were perfect for future speed-skating champion Norval Baptie. Baptie was born in Ontario, but came to Bathgate at the age of one. By the time he was 16, Baptie had won his first world title.

In 1899, John Nilsson, the undefeated world champion at the time, accepted a challenge from Baptie at a two-mile race on skates. In his hometown, Bathgate, the 20 year-old Baptie handed Nilsson his first loss in three years.

Through the next 25 years, Baptie set 10 professional records in speed skating and won nearly 5,000 races. He also began one of the world’s first touring ice shows, which included Olympic skater Sonja Henie. Norval Baptie died on this day in 1966.

By Tessa Sandstrom

“Norval Baptie,” Canadawiki. http://canadawiki.org/index.php/Norval_Baptie.
Heritage ’76: Then and Now Pembina County, North Dakota: pg 188.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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