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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

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Aug. 11, 2010

Is Inline Thriving or Dying?

QHi, Bill: What does the future look like for inline racing? Do you think the sport will grow, maintain its current numbers or lose ground? - Bob from Burlington, Ontario

Hi, Bob: That’s the 64 million dollar question, isn’t it? Let me have a look into my crystal ball.

For starters, consider what’s happening in the USA and the World Inline Cup. What happens with them is usually a good indication of what’s happening with our sport.

We all know there has been a big decline in inline skating in the USA over the past four or five years. But there are some encouraging signs. I have heard that some U.S. rinks are being inundated with skaters. They say families flock to rinks and bowling alleys in hard economic times to escape the depressing news on TV. Maybe that’s the reason. But whatever, let’s hope the inline coaches are taking advantage of the opportunity to recruit new talent for our sport.

Other signs of life in the USA include the National Roller Cup, organized by the Inline Planet. This race series is helping to keep the road marathons going. And then there’s Joey Mantia’s National Speedskating Circuit, which could also hit the big time.

All in all, the U.S. scene seems to be bouncing back. On the other hand, the situation in Europe is somewhat troubled.

For the past decade, the World Inline Cup and Swiss Inline Cup have been the two flagships of our sport. But recently, they have been in decline, and this year has been a disaster. There have been cancelled events, date clashes, a lack of interest and one WIC sponsor going bust. At this point, the Swiss Inline Cup is not even functioning.

Whether these two race series can be revived depends on the organizer, Iguana. But with Iguana's founder Coni Altherr out of the picture, the company will need to find a magician who can pull a rabbit out of the hat.

Elsewhere in Europe, the situation is mixed. The once popular German Blade Challenge is defunct. But the French Dijon marathon bounced back this year, drawing good numbers and excellent racing. And in Holland, increased government support for inline speed skating is moving the sport forward.

South America continues to be a bright spot for inline. Skating is very popular there and continues to draw great talent.

China remains the sleeping giant. But not for long. Thousands of young children are now being trained as inline speed skaters. So the outlook is good.

Another bright spot is New Zealand, where the sport is growing and is larger than it has been for a long time. In my hometown of Timaru, the inline speed club has grown from 15 to 180 skaters in just two years.

There are also some positive signs of life in the skate industry. I know of two top boot makers who currently can’t keep pace with demand. And the same thing goes for the top wheel maker.

So what’s the forecast overall for inline speed skating?

Despite some patches of doom and gloom, I see our sport recovering and rolling into a bright future.

Cheers, Bill

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