Hi, Bill: I'm a little worried about the health of inline skating lately. It seems as though, at least in the USA, there are fewer and fewer skaters. I wonder how things look to a you from your more international perspective? Is inline skating healthy? Does it have a future? - Dennis from California.
Hi, Dennis from California: I can understand your concern, especially there in the United States, where many of your heroes have abandoned the sport in favor of ice.
Unfortunately, the U.S. inline-to-ice program is a one-way street. It takes skaters out of the sport but doesn’t bring any in. The people who created the program didn’t care enough about inline skating to balance it with an an ice-to-inline program. This has ripped the guts out of inline skating in the United States.
For me, it was absolutely gut wrenching to watch a once world giant in our sport (Chad Hedrick) struggle to get a bronze and silver on ice in the Vancouver Winter Games.
And in addition to that, you have lost some of your top female talent to roller derby. The only explanation I can see for this is the monetary rewards of this quasi sport.
But elsewhere in the world, things aren’t so bad. Inline skating is alive and well throughout South and Central America. It is strong in many Asian countries, including Korea, China, Taiwan, Iran, India and Indonesia. And it is also strong in Europe, where it has spread to the former Eastern Bloc countries such as Estonia, Slovakia and Poland. Even in Africa, inline is showing some sparks of life.
All in all, I would say our sport is relatively healthy, if not, of course, as healthy and popular as we would life.
I take solace from what is happening in Holland. There, the sport is very strong and new facilities are going up. Just as in the USA, some of the top skaters are being drawn to ice. But only for the winter. Come spring, they are back on inline skates.