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July 24, 2021

Fritz Dietl the Stilt-Man

Born on July 11, 1911 in Vienna, Austria, Fritz Dietl was educated in the Vienna schools and held a Master’s Degree in Engineering. An internationally known and respected figure skater, professional skating instructor and judge, Dietl began ice skating at age 12 on the Old Danube River in his hometown of Vienna. Though he trained to become a professional tennis player, he chose a career in skating, spending winter months as a skating instructor in Austria and later in Switzerland and England.

In the 1930s, Dietl had his own European ice skating show where he was featured as a stilt skater. He was also an original member of the Ice Capades. He came to the United States in 1940 and began skating with the Olympic champion, Sonja Henie. Together they toured the nation.

Walking on stilts is already impressive enough, but this man pushed it one step further and skated on stilts! Fritz Dietl, who was better known as the Stilt-man, was photographed practicing his skills with four-year-old Pat Kemp at the Empire Pool in Wembley.

In 1958, he opened the Fritz Dietl Ice Skating Rink, which is still in operation today in Westwood, NJ. Dietl coached Scott Allen, who won an Olympic bronze medal in 1964 at the age of 14.

He was a charter member of the Ice Skating Institute of America and was named to the association’s Hall of Fame. He also was a founding member of the International Professional Skating Union and a board member of the Professional Skaters Association who recognized him with the Honorary Member and Lifetime Achievement Award. The PSA Fritz Dietl Ice Arena Award of Excellence was also named after him.

Although retired, Mr. Dietl continued to be active in figure skating until his last month. He was 91 when he died of complications of heart trauma on March 29, 2003.


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