Hey, Bill: It’s me again, Dean from Australia. I was wondering whether skaters get paid to race overseas? That’s not the case here, but I think it’s time for us to go pro if we want skating to grow and to improve our world rankings. What are your thoughts? Also, what would it take to offer the ISA coaching course in Australia?
Hi, Dean: The top skaters used to get paid. Salaries for the top men reached about $45,000 (USD) plus race winnings. Most of the salaried skaters were members of World Inline Cup teams that were sponsored by the big skate companies, like Hyper, Rollerblade, Salomon, Bont and Fila. At one time, there were four big teams touring the world with annual budgets of $250,000.
But with the economic downturn, the skate companies were no longer willing to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into racing teams, and the World Inline Cup went into a steady decline.
Nowadays, only the very top stars — skater's whose names can sell products — have any chance of earning a salary.
A handful of Australian skaters used to have contracts. Among them were Desly Hill, Debra Beveridge, Mick Byrne, Danny Finster, Angelene Thomas and Brooke Lochland. But all but two of them were getting nothing more than equipment.
These days, skating is Australia is not big enough to support pro skaters. Maybe 40 years ago this would have been possible. In those days, West Australia alone, had 28 roller rinks, including three on one short street. Today, there are only a handful of rinks.
Australia was the top nation at the World Championships in 1989 and had several good years after that. But it has pretty much dropped off the map in recent years.
To rebuild Australia's skating programs would require something drastic. And that would take lots of hard work. Remember this: success only comes before work in one place: the dictionary.
I will be in Australia over Easter at the Oceania Championships. Contact me through this column if you want to organize an ISA Level 2 Speed Sport-specific course while I am there.