Former Inline Skaters Account for Nearly a Third of U.S. Medals
'Inliners' Land 8 Skating Medals
Former inline skaters once again proved their worth to the U.S. Olympic Team, winning nearly a third of the squad's medals at the Torino Winter Games.
U.S. inliners won eight medals in all, including three golds.
Their contribution pushed Team USA into second place in the overall standings with 25 medals.
Without the assist from inline, the U.S. team would have finished in sixth place, behind Norway.
Ironically, the U.S. Olympic Committee recently cut off all direct funding to the national governing body for inline skating, USA Roller Sports.
It justified its decision by noting that Roller Sports lacks a program that trains inline skaters to transition to ice.
But the Torino Games, like the Salt Lake City Games before them, seemed to expose the shortsightedness of the decision.
The success of the former inline athletes suggests that USA Roller Sports, whether or not it has an inline-to-ice program, plays a major role in the development of U.S. skate talent.
Chad Hedrick is the best example of this. The 28-year-old Texan won three medals (a gold, silver and bronze) in Torino, although he only started ice skating four years ago.
Prior to that, he was an inline speed skater. He started skating at age two at his parents roller rink and went on to become a 50-time world inline champion.
Apolo Anton Ohno, who also won three medals (a gold and two bronzes), also began skating on inline skates. He was a U.S. national junior inline champion before moving to the ice in his mid-teens.
The story is the same for Joey Cheek, who won two medals (a gold and silver) in Torino and won the admiration of the world by contributing $40,000 of his winnings to Sudanese child refugees.
Cheek also started on inline skates and was a member of the U.S. junior world team before moving to ice in his mid-teens.
Hedrick, Ohno and Cheek accounted for eight of the ten medals won by the U.S. speed skaters.
The squad's only medalist without an extensive inline background was Shani Davis, who won a gold and silver medal.
And guess where he started skating? ... A roller rink.
(posted on Feb. 27, 2006)
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson
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