Figure skating, meet Roller Blading

Back in the 1980s, my family met a woman who used to roller skate competitively as a teenager. She could do jumps, such as an Axel. While I thought it was neat, I didn’t think it could be nearly as difficult as figure skating.

While I’d like to blame my youth for my naivety, I believe it was lack of exposure to roller skating. If there had been coverage of the roller events, I might have switched sports.

The jumps, spins, etc., are just as difficult in figure skating as they are in roller skating. No protective equipment used either. As skaters, we jump off the ice hoping to land on a thin blade rather than our elbow, and bladers jump off a rock hard gymnasium floor with the same end in mind.

One aspect separating figure skating from roller skating is figures—oddly enough. Our sport traced compulsories for the last time in 1990 during the World Figure Skating Championships in Halifax, Canada. In roller skating, figures are traced over a large figure eight pre-drawn on the gym floor. Bladers are judged on balance and accuracy. It would be difficult to deduct points for skating a flat in this case!

Just as in figure skating, bladers have singles, dance, pairs, and synchronized skating.

Figure skating has been part of the Olympics since the 1908 Summer Games in London—there’s a push from some in the roller skating community for that same right.

Roller skating is a difficult, beautiful sport, and the only difference is what the athletes wear on their feet, which are no doubt blistered and the surface they skate on, which no doubt subject to issues.

And that, in my opinion, makes us equals.


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