Remembering Robert Wagenhoffer

By Monica Friedlander
First posted to, December 14, 1999

I hope people will remember Robert Wagenhoffer for more than an occasional Gershwin on Ice or Sea World show, or for his skills as a choreographer. Robert was possibly the greatest unrecognized talent in U.S. skating history. His unmatched soft touch on the ice, extraordinary musical interpretation, ability to do quads long before any were landed in competition -- all these and many more are testimony to a talent we are unlikely to see again for a long time.

Back in the early 1980s he bested the likes of Scott Hamilton (in the short program) and Brian Boitano at Nationals, and was on his way to the top internationally (sixth at the 1982 Worlds) when he decided to turn pro. Immedi ately he went on to win the Jaca World Professional Championships, which was extremely prestigious at the time. (He won Jaca again as well as other pro events in subsequent years.) He continued skating ever since (including starring in Ice Capades for many years), although in a skating world that doesn't recognize those without a slew of world and Olympic titles, his public recognition was limited, even if his talent was not.

Most importantly, Robert was a very, very special human being, with a huge heart and perhaps too much integrity for his own good. He never failed to speak his mind about things, including skating politics, which didn't always win him friends. But you also knew that you always got the truth from him. Robert cherished his friends enormously, and a few years ago cared for his dying friend at the expense of his own career. He was the type of person who would leave a busful of skaters waiting just to walk you to the car at night. He never cared how important or famous you were to be his friend.

Much of the skating world often ignored him during his life because he didn't have a gold medal to show for his efforts. It will come as little comfort to those who loved him, but I hope the skating community will at least remember him and acknowledge his talents now that he's gone.

He's missed more than he would have ever imagined.

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