Sunday, December 17The Voice of London

Friends and thrills: Is speed skating Britain’s next big sport?

Inline Speed Skating is growing in popularity. The Voice of London decided to find out what it’s all about, straight from the skaters themselves.

Gems can be found in the strangest of places. This is especially true of the old, much loved roller rink in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. You’d probably expect to find a group of teenagers messing around, having a laugh and enjoying their youth, but the reality is far more astounding. For inside the swinging doors of Wisbech Skaters, you’ll find nothing other than a group of British Champions, and the future of speed skating in Great Britain.

Speed skating finds much of it’s popularity in Europe, but interest in the UK has been growing. The sport is currently pushing for Olympic recognition, which would bring even more individuals towards competitive skating. Whilst you would be forgiven for thinking that speed skating is a fairly easygoing sport, in reality it requires an extreme amount of technique and fitness. Skaters could find themselves flying around the ring at 30 miles an hour, something requiring razor sharp reactions and nerves.

For many of us, Saturday nights are reserved for binge drinking, date night or inhaling a whole pizza whilst watching Netflix. For this group of young skaters, however, Saturday night means two hours of strapping on your skates for a gruelling training session. Expect tears, red faces and nail biting crashes… and that’s even before the competition starts.

Wisbech Inline Speed Skating Team. Photo by Jo Tidman

The Wisbech Inline Speed Skating team, or WISS for short, have heralded great success in last few years. They are one of a small number of teams across the country, including Essex, London and Birmingham. Boasting six British Champions, the team is easily one of the most successful in the country, stealing gold medals whenever they take to the track. At the last Championships, winners included Warren Eve, Dylan Taylor and Flynn McGurk. One of the team’s shiniest stars comes in the form of the tiny Arthur Buckler, who stands as the British Champion for outdoor, indoor and marathon racing in his age group. The eight-year-old broke records this year, much to the delight of his team mates.

But it doesn’t come easily. The team trains up to four times a week, for hours at a time. Skaters are taught to get up and carry on after a fall, to take risks for the gold and most importantly to cheer on their teammates from the sidelines. Proud parents, friends and siblings are ever present at the side of the ring, ready to patch up bleeding knees and wounded egos all in time for the next race. Determination and thick skin (literally) are essentials to the sport, as is the ability to support your fellow skaters. There is no ‘I’ in team, after all.

Video by Kadie Eve, Photos by Jo Tidman

Besides, at the end of the day, when the skates come off and elbows are plastered up, much of this team is a group of kids who are just trying to balance homework with what they love. At it’s heart this team starts to resemble a family, who cry together, celebrate together and fight like siblings. Of course for WISS, skating is literally a family business; former European champion Mike McInerney now coaches the team, which includes his two daughters Eve and Lucy. Both of whom have gone on to become British Champions, with Eve being picked for the GB team.

WISS is more than a just a team of highly talented and competitive skaters. It’s a community. No matter their age or skill level, everyone is given the same encouragement and opportunity to shine. And, when it’s all said and done, they’re not afraid to dress up and have a bit of fun either.

Halloween, WISS style. Photo by Jo Tidman

The team are always looking for new skaters and sponsors, for more information check out their website at https://www.skaterswisbech.co.uk/

 

Words: Kadie Eve I Subbing: Damian Burchardt

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