Zen and the Art of Speedskating

January 12, 2008

Masters in Milwaulkee

Filed under: on the road — andrew @ 12:02 pm

For those who raced (or are just interested) Ross Hanham just sent me a scanned in copy of the placings & lap times for the Masters sprints, and I .pdf-ed the excel worksheet Carla made of the final results.

Carla also mentioned an interesting fact in the comments from the last post, that the lowest samalong point total as compared to age, was achieved in this meet by Bruce Conner.

That should be an award of it’s own as well!

After races on Saturday, skaters were doing cool-down laps. I grabbed my camera, and did some following.

Click here for the high quality Quicktime, or press play for the YouTube below.

The silver haired skater in the Maryland skinsuit is 66 year old Steve Gunther, Olu is in the 45-50 age category, & Canadian Ross Hanham is in the 50-55 age group.

The reason I mention their ages is because there are some who think masters racing is a waste of time, and there are a few, backwards-thinking clubs out there that don’t accept masters.

Wake up & smell the 21st century! Skaters like Steve, Olu, & Ross, even when just cruising along, rewrite the algorithms of possibility in every step they take. People talk about pursuing sports for the “love of it”, you will not find better examples of that than Masters speedskaters.

There is a Masters Movement happening across all sports, the largest swimming meet EVER was a recent masters event in Japan, the vast majority of cyclists & triathletes are Masters. Masters are the backbone of so many skating clubs, and true intergenerational training is a unique aspect of speedskating that benefits everyone.

How many other sports have all age groups training and racing so equally as speedskating? (since technique recognizes no age divide).

I am very proud of my small contribution to the Masters Movement in speedskating.

8 Comments »

  1. Andrew, you are so true about the importance of masters in cycling and skating clubs. On inline clubs, there are people in their 60s who are sponsored by BONT, I think that’s why they are doing very well. The most important thing is that the masters are the best ambassador to introduce the sports to younger generation. I’ve been skating with my daughter for almost 3 years now, I have to say this is the best three years of my life….and believe it or not, I’m getting better just like my daughter, she still hasn’t caught up with me yet, may be in a couple of month:-)

    Comment by Unicycle — January 12, 2008 @ 2:32 pm

  2. Andrew–after seeing the video–now I know what I wanna be when I grow up!!

    I just finished skating day one of American Cup III here in Roseville, and I’m proud to say that (if I counted correctly!) 11 of the 40 skaters were masters–and a couple were over 50. I totally agree about the importance of older athletes…I think the average age of skaters in the North Shore Inline Marathon (which is one of the largest in the world) is right around 40. The bright, forward-thinking clubs, organizers, and administrators recognize this and try to capitalize on it….From our end, though, I think there are things that master’s skaters can do to help our image: Volunteer to help out when you’re not racing. Pay your dues (literally and figuratively). Be appreciative of the organizers and volunteers at races. Let everyone see how happy and healthy this sport could make them, at any age!

    Comment by Kaari — January 12, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

  3. This is not a new thought. Unfortunately, the clubs tend to be more welcoming than not. The clubs that are not supportive were generally follwing the lead and attitude of US Speedskating towards Masters skaters.

    USS has not been very supportive of the ASU’s and the clubs’ efforts over the years to promote Masters involvement because “they don’t have any potential to earn medals in international competition at World Cups, World Championships, and the Olympics and that is what they say the USOC really looks for and rewards.

    They don’t understand at all the assets that Masters skaters bring to the table in terms of not only being damn impressive athletes, but their value as coaches, organizers, volunteers, event hosts, officials, club organizers, sponsors, donors (of time, money, expertise and passion!), promoters, recruiters, and ambassadors of the sport (not to mention as parents and uncles and aunts who bring children into the sport).

    Maybe that attitude is changing under the new Executive Director (I hope so), but unfortunately it has a long way to go because of so much damage that has been done over the years in terms of neglect and animosity imposed on the Masters level of the sport by those with the power and resources at the NGB level. Let’s hope there is more change coming.

    Comment by Speedy — January 12, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  4. Oops, sorry, I meant to say above that: “This is not a new thought. FORTUNATELY, the clubs tend to be more welcoming than not.”

    Comment by Speedy — January 12, 2008 @ 8:24 pm

  5. Thanks Andrew for not only creating and organizing the 1st Masters International Open American Sprint competition - but also taking the extra time to feature it and the growing international community of masters speed skating on your excellent blog. Your contribution is in no way small.

    Comment by Ross Hanham — January 12, 2008 @ 8:35 pm

  6. No, Thank you on behalf of the internet community,
    ANdrew, we love you out here in California….

    Comment by mark — January 13, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  7. Quite a few things have always seemed odd to me about the idea that masters skaters are not worth as much as younger skaters. One, clubs need more people to make money, so a lot of them think “kids, kids, kids” with little support for existing skaters (who are mostly masters or nearly masters). Yes, clubs need kids, and we need lots of kids to get interested each year, but the reason for that seems to be that people don’t stick around. Why don’t people stick around? There’s too little support… (Badger and Wolverine, by the way, are great with all of us - I’m just makling a generalization.)

    Two, in other sports like running and cycling, masters-age competitors are some of the tougher. Maybe skating is physically different, but it is also much much easier young 35-year-olds to feel accepted in a sport like running.

    Three, logic…masters skaters are not going to earn medals, etc. OK, fine. Well, if you are watching 20 6-year-olds in a pack meet, how many are going to earn Olympic medals? Sure, they have potential, but statistically, how likely are you to be looking at an Olympic medalist of ANY age?

    Four, people can do what they want. I’m 33 and if I want to skate, I’m going to skate. If you’re 83 and you want to skate, you should skate. What’s the big deal? But along with this comes an ethical question… I’m happy to volunteer, but primarily I’m training and racing. I think about inspiring people by being a good person, giving good advice, and helping with technique when possible, but not (yet?!) by being older and still in shape. Something I would really like to do in life in general is to positively influence others (in health, self esteem, whatever), but does that truly mean I can skate because I want to?

    In any case, thanks again to Andrew for all the fun and masters support!!

    Comment by carla — January 13, 2008 @ 5:55 pm

  8. Carla,

    I think that enough people don’t rise up to their dreams. Looking at someone like you doing the skating that you do is inspiring, regardless of the reasons for which you do it. Your desire to be a positive influence luckily goes hand in hand with doing something you love. I hope you never divide the two in your mind. That goes for you and many many other masters skaters. Just follow your passion (and try not to break the bank doing it) and you will be an inspiration.

    Yeah, that last sentence was kind of directed at my husband ;)

    Comment by jessica — January 16, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

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