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Year in Review:

2006: The Roller Coaster Ride That Was
Can't Win for Losin'
By Robert "Just the Factoids" Burnson
posted Thursday, January 4, 2007

What a wild ride we had in 2006!

We shared vicariously in Olympic glory through the success of ex-inline skaters, such as Chad Hedrick and Joey Cheek. We saw new events created and old events revived. And we saw companies enter and leave the field as the skate industry continued to adjust to the shrunken, but solid, demographic.

But what struck us most last year was the roller coaster nature of it all. It was up and down — often with the same person playing the role of both hero and goat. It seemed as though we couldn't win for losing ... or was it the other way around?

If you don't know what we mean, scan our list of 2006 highlights:

1.) The Self-Hanging Chad

Former inline champion Chad Hedrick's smiling face is everywhere in the run-up to the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. He even snags a guest spot on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

But the luster of his three medals (gold, silver and bronze) fades after his public feud with teammate Shani Davis, who had declined to skate the team pursuit.

2.) The Rumpelstiltskin

The United States Olympic Committee announces it will cut off funding to the national governing body for inline skating, which has used the money to send skaters to the World Championships.

But then the USOC changes it's mind. But there's a catch: It will only provide the money if inline skating promises its first-born child ... well, not exactly. But it makes the money contingent on a program intended to funnel the top U.S. inline skaters to the Olympic ice program.

3.) The Tumble

Champion Skate Supply Co. announces plans to bring Fila Skates, previously available only in Europe and Asia, to North America. But the rollout fizzles after Champion co-owner Bret Whitman shatters bones in his ankle and feet in a fall from a two-story rooftop he was surveying for a cleaning job.

4.) Sure 'bout That?

Salomon finds a deep-pocket partner (MMCmicro) and puts together a powerhouse team led by Massimiliano Presti and Luca Saggiorato. The team easily wins the men's World Inline Cup. But before the end of the season, word leaks out that Salomon, under new management, is not only dumping the team but leaving the skate field all together. ... Ouch!

5.) Joey and the Jammers

USA's Joey Mantia proves himself to be the planet's top speed skater at the World Championships in Anyang, South Korea. He wins four gold medals and sets three world records.

But it appears that the 20-year-old Floridian would have won more gold if not for "business as usual" at the championships. Questionable officiating, a freak timing problem and blatant cheating hinder Joey. In the 1000 meters, two Colombian skaters apparently think they've joined the Roller Derby as they grab, shove and block Mantia to keep him from gold.

6. Good News or Good Grief?

Brittany Bowe, one of the world's most promising young inline skaters, accepts an athletic scholarship from Florida Central College. Only one problem: It's a basketball scholarship!

If you find all of this a little depressing, do what we do when we've got the skate industry blues: Watch a skate video. (Here are some of our favorites.)

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Copyright 2007 by Robert Burnson

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