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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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March 2, 2011

Who Were the Best Quad Speed Skaters of All Time?

QDear Bill: As a follow up to your recent column listing the best-ever inline speed skaters, could you please share your list of the top outdoor quad skaters of all time? - Donn Calvano, past winner of 65 quad (state, regional and national) championships and coach of 36 quad and inline champions.

Hi, Donn: It’s not easy to come up with a Top 10 list for quad skaters given the disjointed history of the sport. The roller sports federation (FIRS) did not hold speed championships from 1970 to 1974. Finally in 1975, it sanctioned two title events: a rain-shortened banked track championships in Argentina and a road championships in Italy. But these events were for men only.

After that, two years passed without another world championships. This hit-or-miss scheduling hurt the careers of some great skaters, like Itay’s Guiseppe Canteralla and England’s John Fry — and also the FIRS current speed president Roberto Marotta. We will never know what they might have done given a chance.

But based on what I've seen as a competitor (my first world championships was in 1975) and coach, here’s my list:

1. Guiseppe Cruciani - Italy

Cruciani was part of the Italian juggernaut of the mid-1970s. He was incredibly light on his feet and could win any race they would let him. The story of how one of his teammates clubbed him with a bearing press is legendary. He was supposed to let teammate Guiseppe De Persio win the race. But in the sprint, he had too much speed and shot past De Persio. The angry De Persio responsed with his metal bearing press. I remember in one race watching Cruciani execute a 4-wheel braking maneuver to keep himself from beating Guiseppe Canteralla across the line. On another occassion, he succesfully blocked the American team, providing a half-lap lead for his teammates. Then he pulled off his brake and caught his teammates, skating on nothing but his two back outside wheels. It was an awesome display of skill and speed. And only Cruciani could have done it.

2. Guiseppe Canteralla - Italy

His teammates called him “Pippo;” the press dubbed him the “Black Panther.” He was a living legend. Born in Sicily, he was a great sprinter who was unbeatable in his prime. He was also a gentlemen, respected by all. He was well into his thirties in 1980 when he won his final world title.

3. Annie Lambrechts - Belgium

I always called her “the fourth Italian” because in any race, she was always sitting behind the three members of the Italian team before picking them off, one by one. She was a great road racer, though not a great track racer. She won about 20 world titles. Her last came in 1981 on her home turn in Leuven, Belgium. She won the 500m time trial, the 5000m, 10000m and was second to my wife, Cheryl, in the 3000m.

4. Tom Peterson - USA

When the Italians were in their prime and ruled Worlds, Tommy was one of the few non-Italians who could win gold. He won three world titles in New Zealand in 1980 and three more in Belgium in 1981. He sat out the next year with a water skiing injury, returning in 1983 to win his seventh and last title. But things didn’t go as planned for the Mind Games Man in the high altitude of Bogota in 1984. And you know what they say about payback.

5. Guiseppe De Persio - Italy

This Italian skater was beautifull to watch and very light on his feet. The fact that his 500-meters world record stood for more than 25 years is testament to his greatness.

6. Bobby Kaiser - USA

A “Mr. Nice Guy” who never finished last, he gave away world titles to his teammates. A very clean skater, respected by all. He was superbly fit and trained very hard, particularly offskate.

7. Nora Vega - Argentina

She was a great sprinter who carried the flag for the Pan American Games in her home city of Mar Del Plata. She was named the greatest Argentinian sportswomen of all time.

8. Tony Muse - USA

Tony won lots of world titles with his first usually coming in the 300m time trial at Worlds. He was often assigned to do lead-outs in shorter events. As a result, he gave away world titles to teammates who he could have otherwise beaten. Now in his 40s, he is still going strong, competing and winning as a master skater in inline marathons.

9. Dante Muse - USA

Tony’s older brother had the best crossover corners on the track. He was a great distance skater. One of his adversaries, Stephen Whyte, described him as the fiercest person he ever raced. He hated losing and would push through anything to avoid this fate. Like his brother, he was born to skate. His childhood home was above his parent’s roller rink.

10. Stephania Ghermandi - Italy

A complete Italian skater and winner of numerous world titles. In 1984, she won the 300m time trial with a time good enough to place her among the top 10 men. At 6 feet tall, she was a very impossing figure.

I've left off several worthy skaters, including: Patrizio Sarto (Italy), originator of the Sarto start; Stephen Whyte (Australia), winner of two (should have been four) titles in 1989; and Marissa Canafoglia (Italy), winner of numerous titles.

Sorry to those I missed!

Cheers, Bill

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