By Melissa White
Everyone follows the ice skating championships at least a little bit – we’re all surprised by the precise movements and beautiful jumps the skaters perform. The ice itself has some fascination to it, it makes everything smooth and elegant. But not so much attention is given to artistic roller skating in Northern Europe. The skaters do the same jumps and same turns, but there is a different technique and the whole thing is not on ice, the speed is gained through rolls underneath the shoes. Catharina Glandien from the ERB roller skating team in Germany tells me that roller skating is actually harder than ice skating. This has to do with aerodynamics. The shoes are a lot heavier and there is not only one point of contact like on the ice skates, there is four, the four rolls.
ERB trainer Andreas Nickel explains that there is a very simple geographical reason for the dominance of ice skating here in Northern Europe. It snows here and lakes freeze. The sport is ingrained into colder countries’ culture through that simple historical reason. So no surprise when I tell you that rollerskating is more popular in South America, right? Even though we can easily make stadiums filled with ice nowadays, the origin of the sports still has an impact on the .
Many of the world’s top ice skaters are from Canada, Norway, and Russia; Northern countries with a lot of snow and ice. And Japan and China (but they’re just good at everything).The roller skating championships are largely dominated by countries such as Italy, Argentina and Brazil. The gold medal in the world championships in the last ten years has largely been awarded to Italian skaters in every category, with only small exceptions on the leaderboard now and again.
Roller skaters in Northern Europe have no big chance of doing it as a job – not as an athlete. Maybe as a trainer. There are many athletes in ice skating, although again here only the biggest skaters earn enough to make a living. People such as Evgenia Medvedeva, Yuzuru Hanyu, Alina Zagitova.
The stereotype that roller skating and ice skating isn’t a “real” sport adds to this problematic. This is especially true for men participating in it. Sadly there is still a big stigma relating to skating, whether on rolls or on ice. It is perceived as very “feminine”. However, men can excel at this sport more than women. They can usually do one more revolution in their turns, meaning they jump quadruple jumps. That has nothing to do with discrimination by the way, that’s just the way that male and female bodies are physically built. And why should including choreography into a sport make it only for women? Watching Bruno Massot lift Aljona Savchenko with ease and Yuzuru Hanyu jump immaculately, how can anyone say this is not a men’s sport?
If you’re not a professional, this sport has a thrill to it even for amateurs. The speed you can gain and the fluidity of the movement is something everyone could fall in love with.