The Next Champions

I have been having an intermittent email conversation with a Dutch fellow, he said that Europeans are always surprised at how well Americans do internationally, given how small skating is in this country.

Elite ice skating is microscopic in America compared to many other nations, but I just got an inkling where the next champions will be coming from:

John Dimon wrote an email to me this morning, worth republishing here:

I just got back from U.S. Indoor Roller Speedskating Nationals, Representing Mogema North America and Dimon Sports. Incredible!

Sprint night and finals were like a collage football game! We need this type of enthusiasm in ice racing! 1100 skaters! (Short Track Nationals gets like 220). Many inliners will be switching to ice.

Records were broken in almost all age classes. 98% were on 4 x 90mm or 4 x 100mm. Even most tiny tots were on 4 x 90mm!

Michael Cheek did well. I heard Joey Cheek was in attendance one night watching his younger brother. U.S. Speedskating rep Tom McLean was there as well as U.S.O.C. rep Kelly Skinner.

I think you will see continued cooperation from the two organizations.

It was so exciting, I felt like I was at a collage football game! People from associations were chanting against each other across the auditorium. There were painted faces in U.S Flags, Uncle Sam hats. a “spirit competition”.

It was a uniquely American experience.

Thanks John!! My mom was actually in Lincoln, Nebraska that same weekend at a conference, she said airplanes & hotels were jammed with skaters & supportive families.

How many future Olympians were rumbling across the hardwood this weekend? And why isn’t there chanting & general excited craziness at ice events?

In a time where there are some difficulties & challenges within the ice side of the sport, this is a breath of fresh air.

17 Responses to “The Next Champions”

  1. Actually, I can’t wait to see some inliners change over to ice and start kicking ass, especially on the women’s side. It’s just USS’s attitude towards this whole thing that makes me sick. I really do want to see some of those entitled little ice princesses get what they deserve.

  2. Nobody comes to our races in northern california. Hardly anyone knows we exist at all, or that short track skating in the US has clubs.

    We do have an inline club in the area but they won’t try ice. One kid came out once, his father was super pumped up for him to try ice, then they didn’t come back.

    Obviously from a marketing perspective we’re missing something, but we don’t know what it is. Too bad USS doesn’t provide any marketing support!

  3. don’t you get it love?!? this is SERIOUS stuff, this ice speedskating. let’s not demean it with frivolous cheering and spontaneous enthusiasm. if people want that, they can GO play college sports like football and basketball where that stuff goes on. that is SO beneath Olympic sport, especially the MOST successful winter Olympic sport (well, by medals won anyway). a roaring crowd, pep bands, people having fun….. that is NOT the us speedskating way! a lot of work went into making the culture of the sport and the culture of the organization that is USS the way it is, so let’s not ruin it now! could you imagine what would happen if crowds of 1,100 or even 11,000 showed up at an event and wanted t-shirts and concessions? the lines and the trouble that would create? what a needless hassle! the athletes who want to be a part of that can go along with the top athletes in the country and join the football and basketball players. good for them, i hope they get some of that big pro money and fame. it will leave more for the rest of us true ice skating people - just because we compete on the ice doesn’t mean we want a lot of other unwashed heathens coming in and competing for our national medals and our places on the Olympic team and making those hysterical crowd scenes!

  4. the snail reappears, armed with wit & sarcasm!!


    actually, the first time I skated US sprint nationals, on one day they seemed to have about 6 busloads of kids there for a field trip… the screaming/cheering was quite deafening (in a good way) when you whipped by the stands where they were…

    The dutch seem to party pretty hard at races, maybe that is the correct model… lotsa beer, orange hats, an ooompah band..

    maybe US speedskating can sell alcohol at events, get budweiser as a corporate sponsor…

  5. Obviously you’ve never been to a meet with RSST!!! (grin). Even if you are peripherally associated with us, our whole team will cheer you on like you are an Olympian!

  6. I definitely second John’s impression of Indoor Inline Nationals! (btw, Kevin and I enjoyed seeing John there as we weren’t able to get up to Lake Placid this past winter) This was my first nationals, at the ripe ‘ole age of 42, as both a competitor and an observer, and it was definitely quite an event! National records were falling left and right… Definitely alot of up and coming talent, no doubt some of which will make the cross to ice. Joey Cheek was there for several nights. He spoke at a fundraiser for the US Inline World Team one evening and received a standing ovation. The basic message was great - no matter who you are and where you’ve come from, always be humble. We’ll send you a separate email, Andrew.

  7. these 2 last posts are quite related, aren’t they? Possibly the same things that can bring more people to the ovals - even if they’re doing something else like playing miniature golf in the infield - might also create some feeling on their part for the skaters and the sport.

  8. John sorry I didn’t know you were going to be in Lincoln. As Andrew said, I was also in Lincoln and talked to many skaters and their parents who were staying at the same hotel and/or were on the Omnilink between Omaha and Lincoln.

    Wonderful feelings among the skaters. Most of the ones I spoke with were between ages 6-12. They all seemed to be having a good time but were serious about what they were doing. THe parents were very friendly-many of them said that they also skated–clearly for fun.

    Also Lincoln is a neat place–small, easy to get around, inexpensive motels, no traffic. Definately a family feeling to the events. When I asked them how they got started it always was–the rink was there…….and so.

    Hope some of these kids cross over to ice.

  9. Amy is so right-on!!! Any meet you attend and RSST is there, you can bet that they will cheer you on til they’re blue in the face-even if you are side by side with one of their own. All get equal billng!

    I am so impressed with in-liners-maybe because deep rooted fear keeps me a spectator! I know what it feels like to smash into ice..pavement is not as forgiving! Ouch! As an ice competitor, it’s great having the “summer” crowd come into the mix-makes races interesting!

    Marchese is still trying to talk me into rollers…if he catches me at the end of his dryland sessions..I’m so beat that I consider it…then my brain recovers after food and I think are you nuts? His reply is always-”yeah, but it’s fun!”

    Maybe if I wrap my body entirely in bubble wrap I’ll think some more about it…Haha.

  10. Long time reader, first time commentor.

    It is really funny reading this, not in a ha ha sort of way. Both sides of the fence(ice/inline), stand up and point at the other and say that is the future of our sport. Both are complaining about dwindling attendance. You hear the stories when senior men had 10+ heats. When I lived in Boston, I could easily find a recreational league for hockey, ice speedskating was non-existant/not visible. inline speed is also not visible, it took me a while to find and make contact with the team that I skate for. Both inline and ice should make it easy for people to find groups/clubs what have you.

    There are enough similarities between ice and inline that the two NGB really have to work with each other. There are 3000 indoor inliners with amature cards, and outdoors there are probably a couple thousand more(mostly older). How many ST/LT ice amature card holders are there?

    I’ve come to appreciate what LT ice skaters do, when I change where I skate in the mornings before heading into work… I’m now doing a 400m oval in the Seahawk stadium parking lot. I can really appreciate the consistency and accuracy that I saw in the olympics. And yes in 2010 I’ll be buying tickets to see LT and ST.

    I think I’ve rambled enough.

    Thanks Andrew for having this blog!

  11. In Minnesota, we have a fairly unique situation–a refrigerated long track oval (as well as a natural ice, smaller oval up in Duluth) which is used for inline racing in the summer; the Metrodome, which is open 4-5 nights a week for inline skating during the winter; and tons of trails and inline road races (I think there was also an inline short track club that got going last year). This allows for some interesting observations…
    1. Inliners don’t want to do ice–but when they do, it makes them a lot faster on their inlines.
    2. Inliners don’t place much if any value on technique.
    3. The long track ice skaters have little to do with the inline track races (I am the only skater who routinely races both inline track and long track ice, although a couple of the inline guys are getting involved in ice now.)
    4. The long track ice skaters still look down on the inliners, even the Olympic athletes who came from inlining (one local coach complained to me that the Olympic skaters who came from inline “didn’t come up through the sport the right way…this is a family sport that kids grow up in.” Hmm, I guess Chad Hedrick growing up in inlining just doesn’t cut it…
    5. Long track ice skaters do not value masters competitors, although in inlining well over half of the regular competitors/top competitors are masters age. Apparently you must grow up in long track skating, but then have the decency to leave the sport when you turn 35…

    It’s somewhat frustrating that these two great, seemingly similar sports are apparently so at odds with each other. Again, I’m only making limited observations at the local level, but it seems to me that both sports could benefit from from a bit more cross-pollination…

  12. fantastic discussion going on here!

    Kaari is right, cross pollination is a key in making BOTH sports stronger…

    Both disciplines (we do the same sport “speedskating” but are in different aspects of it) are beautiful, exciting, and have something to offer the other technically and physically…

    attitudes are local in terms of relations between the sports, it sounds good in places, bad in others.. I hope that someday the lines will be truly blurred between the flavors of speedskating, so we are all just “skaters” first….

    this is making me smile today! fantastic discussion folks!!

  13. I had the pleasure of skating with ultra narrow wheels these past two weeks and I discovered the lack of technique that I have.

    Where I used to apply more power and be rewarded with 3 minute miles, I’d end up maybe 10s faster than when I was not paying attention and bobbing along.

    Yes, inline and ice are close but the public perception has to change as well as our own attitudes to each other.

    As for the master men leaving LT…I think it has to do with LT being an individual event. How many of the men want to see their times go down after they worked so hard to get them where they were. Inline indoor as pack racing, it really does not matter what my individual time is all that matters is that I can hang on and have enough left to throw a pass or two.

  14. You know, I think when it comes right down to it…I really don’t care if your an inliner or an ice person-as long as you are there toeing the line, race is on!!

    Personally, as I said before, I like that so many are trying out ice. It’s puts a more laid back vibe into the meet which is fun. And you get to see crazy passes to boot!!

    I like that cross pollenation comment-great wording! :)
    Hey, the more the merrier. There is no right or wrong way to come up through the sport…I started way late..over 30. Most coaches would and probably do have the attitude why bother? You can never go anywhere, why start now?
    My answer to that is I waited 8 years to try it, once I did, I found my passion and it’s fun. Will I compete at the level I am now? No, not forever. Will I always compete? Yes. It’s in my nature.

    Who knows-if things had been different I might be adding a comment as an inliner-but wheels scare me. I will try it someday-hopefully soon.
    As for inline readers- I hope more of you try ice-tell your friends-a lot of us out here like having you at ice meets- you make competiton fun! And the more that show up, the more heats we can skate, and isn’t that what it all boils down to?? To skate as much as we possibly can?

    Thanks Andrew- I always enjoy reading this blog!

  15. Mark Virtue, at what time do you skate at the stadium? I would like to meet up with you, as I am regularly in Seattle. You might have seen me. I drive the ‘04 STi with SKEELER license plate. Drop me a line at or

  16. I am a master skater. Master seems a bit mis-leading since I often wonder if I will ever master the art/science of skating. There is no lack of master level LT skaters in the Midwest showing up at the Pettit, pack-style, metric, or just a weekday evening training session. I joined an indoor inline club at the end of last year’s ST season and found it to be a real benefit in many ways. The big difference I found between the two disciplines was that ice technique demanded a great deal more precision. I found indoor inline to involve a good deal of it’s own technique and I looked for things that would carry over to ice. It was easy to over-cook a turn on inlines since traction is usually an issue even with the right wheels and a good floor. An inline pivot on a 100 meter safety track is pretty much out of the question unless you like hearing the squeal of your skin buring off as it slides across a plastic coated floor. It is great for tempo/AT training as well as pack skills. Imitating ice technique on wheels, such as a long recovery leg glide will usually mean getting dropped as soonas the pace remotely picks up. The thing that both disciplines have the most in common - people of either discipline who just plain love to skate can skate with others who like the same and it’s fun. FUN, I tell you. I got lucky and the club I joined was as eager to learn about how I train on ice as I was to learn about training on wheels. I plan on supplementing all my early off-season training with the folks at Funway Fire Speed Skating Club.

  17. I am excited to let you know about our upcoming Sports Night! 2006 - An evening with Joey Cheek benefiting cancer research at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Section on Hematology and Oncology on Monday, October 16 at the Grandover Resort and Conference Center. Our poster is attached! Our special guests will be Dan Jansen, 1994 Olympic Gold Medalist and Cindy Farmer, Fox8 News, will be our emcee.

    Since the Olympic Games Joey has become the ‘Olympic Activist’, speaking in front of numerous audiences across the country in an effort to raise awareness and support for children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world, most especially the Darfur region of Sudan. He is an Athlete Ambassador for the humanitarian organization Right To Play for whom his efforts have raised nearly one million dollars. He was elected by his fellow Olympians to bear the American flag at the Closing Ceremonies, featured on the Wheaties Box, received the 2006 National Sportsmanship Award, has been honored at the White House and was named to Time Magazine’s World’s 100 Most Influential People. He’s the star of an upcoming MTV reality show Joey Cheek Goes to College and will attend Princeton University next fall.

    The cost person is $100 - $50 is tax deductible. This will include two wine/beer tickets and a seated dinner which includes dessert! Credit cards are accepted. Corporate Sponsorship - $1300 - 10 guests.

    Spread the word to all your friends. We would love to fill the room to support this very worthy cause. Please visit our web site to learn more about the foundation and the event.

    Please contact me should you have any questions or need any additional information.

    Thanks for helping to “spread the word” about our event. I hope you will be able to attend.


    Barbara MacKay Vinson - President
    MacKay Foundation for Cancer Research
    7 Thimbleberry Square
    Greensboro, NC 27455
    (336) 286-4930 or (336) 286-2790

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