Planet Profile of Valerie Leftwich:

New Roller Sports Vice Prez Talks About Her Goals

Leftwich Established Herself in Australia Before Moving Into International Arena

By Robert "FIRS groupie" Burnson

Valerie Leftwich, the new first vice-president of the International Roller Sports Federation, is not a speed skater herself. Nor was she in her youth.

But nonetheless, she is a firm supporter of the federation's effort to make speed skating -- rather than artistic skating or roller hockey -- the first Olympic roller sport.

Eventually, she says, she would like to see all the federation's disciplines make it into the Olympics.

But for now, she describes herself as "very pleased" with the federation proposal, which calls for two days of closed-circuit inline road racing at the Olympics.

"Honest Appraisal"

The proposal, she says, represents an "honest appraisal of our sport" and acknowledges the "enormous popularity" of speed skating in the last 15 years.

In an interview with the Planet, Leftwich focused not on the Olympic weaknesses of the other roller disciplines, but on the strengths of speed skating: its global reach, its modest equipment and venue costs, and its inclusion of both men and women.

With speed skating, "we fulfill all the requirements of the Olympic Committee," she said. "But of course if there is something else that we can do to comply, we will do everything within our power to make it happen."

Leftwich herself comes from a background of artistic skating.

She was born in Westminster, London, but moved with her family to Whitstable (Kent) in southern England after a bomb destroyed their home during the Blitz of World War II.

"In my early teens, I joined a skating club, which was in the nearby town of Herne Bay," she said. "There I did artistic skating and was also a keen spectator of traditional hockey."

Married Harry

As a young women, she met and married Harry Leftwich. Together with their son, they immigrated to Australia in 1967.

Two years after they arrived, Harry bought two skating rinks -- "and once again I was back in the sport," Valerie said.

The family lived west of Sydney in New South Wales. Harry and Valerie devoted themselves to their new business and also became involved in the local skating federation: New South Wales Roller Sports.

Soon, Harry was president of the federation and Valerie, who was heavily involved in artistic skating, was vice-president.

In 1991, the Leftwichs decided it was time for a break. So they sold their roller rinks and moved to sunny Queensland, to pursue semi-retirement.

"But of course, I knew that would not work," Valerie says.




Copyright © 2006 by Robert Burnson

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