Joey Mantia shines again in 2008
Usually when you're looking for speed skating's best, you find it in the senior division (18 and over). But this year, one junior must be included along with the stars of the World Inline Cup and World Championships.
The three senior stars of 2008 were Joey Mantia, Cecilia Baena and Yann Guyader; the junior star was Pedro Causil.
Joey Mantia won four WIC events in six starts, a great accomplishment in itself, but even greater considering he was sick for the track championships at Worlds. He came back with a vengeance to win three World road titles and grab a World record as well. He closed out the WIC in Europe in devastating form, adding Superman to his Superstar status with his fantastic, late withering burst in the Berlin Marathon. He sprinted like a bolt of lightening past 20 of the World's best in the last 200 meters, and with a magnificent lunge, left a bewildered Fabio Francolini in second place, with the unfortunate memory of having been beaten by one of the greatest field sprints ever.
Cecilia Baena, with the desire to win the WIC, chose to forgo the 2008 World championships and committed herself to a full season in Europe. In her previous years, she had proven she was good enough to win alone. But this year with team Bont, she had the support of three of the world's top long distance skaters: fellow Colombian Alexandra Vivas, Argentina's Tamara Llorens, and New Zealand's Nicole Begg. The team won both the Swiss and World Inline Cup team events, took first and second in SIC, and made a clean sweep in the WIC, coming in first, second, and third.
In 12 events contested, Cecilia won seven, was second in two, third in one, with a fifth and sixth being her worst results – a truly dominating record. She also doubled up with the prestigious Swiss Inline Cup title, demonstrating that if she gets to the last 200 meters in good shape, the race is hers.
Yann Guyader is often referred to as Napoleon, as he wants to conquer everyone. The volatile Yann has unquestionable skating ability and his antics often cause discontent, but I doubt anyone has ever matched his record for 2008. He opened the season by winning Europe's two big races – the Tres Pistas and Gross Gerau – and went on to win the French, European and World individual titles.
To top it all off, he conquered the Swiss, French, and World Inline Cup titles and helped his well-drilled Alessi team – Fabio Francolini, Stefano Galliazzo, Matteo Amabili and Elio Cuncu – win best team overall at SIC and WIC, for a nice double – with Francolini third in the WIC, Galliazzo seventh, and Amabili eigth.
In 2006, I told one of the world's top men, this guy was good and had good speed over 500 meters. After seeing Yann at Gross Gerau, he laughed a bit and told me he was just racing mugs. Well he raced everyone at every level in 2008, and he won here, there, and everywhere.
Neither had a spectacular build up, neither looked likely to be a gold medal winner. As the qualifying rounds unfolded, everyone had other names on their lips for the title "World Champ." But it's amazing how the pressure of World Championships can cause athletes to make mistakes they wouldn't usually make, like taking the wrong lines or not checking their gear.
But the two time-trial kings of the last decade didn't cave in to championship stress. Kalon Dobbin on the track and Gregory Dugento on the road each added another rainbow time-trial jersey to his collection. But now that they're on the wrong side of thirty, how long can we expect to see them to remain at the top?
Pedro Causil, the Colombian junior, claimed the new track world record. The seniors may still have one year's grace before he moves to senior, so no panic yet for 2009. But Australia's Daniel Greig, the road time-trial winner in 2007 and 2008, is due to move up to senior next season.
Lucky at Last
Shane Dobbin, the quiet Kiwi, in what was probably his very last inline World Championship, won the men's marathon, with a very good Kiwi support effort. This was Shane's third senior World title win, each four years apart. In 2000, he won the double marathon in Columbia, in 2004, he was the road points winner in Italy and in 2008 was the Spanish marathon victor.
In the long-distance women's events, Woo Hyo Sook won two track and one road World titles. The fleet-footed, experienced Korean only had one or two genuine challengers. Her three wins in the last 6 years in the 10,000 points elimination track and her five World titles in the last two years rank her as one of the decade's top World distance performers, putting her in the lofty company of skaters like Alexandra Vivas.
After starting the WIC season in second, then suffering a horrific crash that broke her jaw and gave her a nasty chin wound requiring several stitches, Nicole Begg could have kissed the season goodbye. Fully wired up and only able to take fluids, she missed two months of valuable power work and had limited training. Her chances at the Worlds were severly diminished. But despite her setbacks, she persevered and finished with two silver medals, lost a shot at gold in a crash, lead the field with 10,000 road points to retain an overall World title for the third consecutive year, and finished second in WIC.
It seemed like the USA women sprinters, World record holder Brittany Bowe and Sara Sayasane, were on a mission to damage the reputations of the Italian and Colombian racers. They did that job extremely well, returing home as World champions. Brittany also collected a couple of WIC podiums during the year, fitting her skating in with college basketball – proving without doubt that she is an excellent athlete.
Stefano Galliazzo, the tough-as-teak ageless warrior, is a great example to the youngsters. He is still right up there with the very best of them, setting the bar for keeping in shape and showing unwavering enthusiasm for racing throughout his long career. Stefano holds the record for top-level longevity, which will be a challenge for any racer to meet or beat.
He did it for a win in Suzhou; he did it previously in Munich and Engadine WIC races – and countless other times. Max Presti was the skater who ruled his teams with an iron fist. But if his team couldn't help him get a win, he would often cut a deal with opponents so he could get to the line first. Max showed his wily ways and dogged determination by finishing fourth overall, even though he lacked team support and was not the designated team winner.
Luca Saggioratto – Max Presti's lieutenant, understudy, and lead out man for a number of seasons – had his chance in 2008 to step out of the shadow of the WIC king, But he ran into an impetuous and impatient Yann Guyader who believed the crown should be his. At times, it was difficult to figure out Rollerblades' tactics. The overall men's win would have left them with a title for 2008, but it was not to be – the racing gods had other things on the agenda.
Light on their feet, the Italians Francesco Zangarini and Fabio Francolini give the impression of dancers. They are always there in the group, but never glaringly stand out. They keep a low profile, just gliding along in the pack ready to make a move and sweep their opponents off their feet.
Notable WIC Women
Had it not been for team Alessi's-Powerslide's Giovanna Turchiarelli in the bunch sprint finishes, Bont may well have gone one and two in 75 percent of the races. From the Dutch-based Cado Motus team, the ageless rain godess Hilde Goovaerts – World Marathon champion in 1995 and the breakaway expert – and former Ice Junior World champion Elma de Vries, each won a WIC race. Alexandra Vivas had two WIC wins, with a third in the WIC and a second in the SIC – a good season, even though she didn't add to her 8 World Senior titles. Jana Gegner and France's Anne Sophie Petiprez snagged wins in Dijon while the top skaters were away in Incheon. Sara Erviti (Venezuela), got on the podium in Incheon and was the only WIC newcomer to finish in the top 10. Other top 10 finishers were Spain's Sandra Gomez (fifth), Argentina's Tamara Llorens (seventh), and Switzerland's Nadine Gloor (ninth).
Men New to the Big Time
Filling eighth, ninth, and tenth spots overall in the WIC were Italian Matteo Amabili, Venezuelan Alexander Bastidas, and Swiss skater Severin Widmer. They also had impressive performances at the World Championships, with Amabili being very unlucky on the track at Worlds. These three have the capacity to be future World and WIC stars.
Among the top 20 overall in the WIC were young, keen and tough Nicolas Zamudio, Antonio Ruales and Christian Diaz Granados, all from Colombia; and D.J. Nation, and Peter Michael, both from New Zealand. We have not heard the last of this group.
While no longer young guns, two experienced, tough campaigners this season were New Zealand's Ben Alchin who placed sevententh and Kepa Caballero who took the nineteenth spot overall – no small accomplishment in what was the toughest and most competitive year in the WIC.
Antoio Ruales (Colombia) won at Wolvega, Jorge Bolanos (Ecuador) took top honors in Dijon, and Alexandra Bastidas (Venezuela) was victorious in the Coni X Race – all first year men who are part of the 2008 South American invasion. Rollerblade's experienced Diego Rosero and Nicolas Iten also reached the podium.
The Matter World Inline Center team, who promised so much, only reached the podium once. But their consistency saw them place third overall in the WIC. The classy Andres Munoz, unfortunately, did not pull a top spot, but was impressive at worlds. The Rollerblade women's team's form was very up and down. Team leader Laura Lardarni (2005 and 2007 WIC winner) was off her pace with only one podium in 2008.
A red hot favourite in the time trials, Wouter Hebbrecht went home with only two bronze medals. Scott Arlidge was another skater who did not fire on all cylinders. A fan told me Erika Zanetti was the fastest lady you have ever seen, but she didn't show that speed in Spain. Brigitte Mendez also seemed out of form, They are all sure to show up in the future, and with the 2009 season around the corner, will already have forgotten 2008.
Copyright © 2008 by Inline Planet