Track's chats: Portugal and the UK
Unknown National delegations in Heerde and Zwolle
Some skaters do not succeed, but all proudly represent their nation with their goals and motivation. They lack of financial, material and human resources to support them. They are subject to varying conditions of preparation, often very uneven with bigger nations athletes. A quick look at our European neighbors...
Episode 1: The Portuguese in the European Championships!
Martyn Dias. Maybe you already heard this name. He was one of the Portuguese to have shown his talent in the elite category in the final of the "Three Tracks" in Gujan-Mestras (France). He is one of ten Portuguese athletes in the Netherlands for European Championships, and he is clearly one of the best chances of medal for his country. The young Martyn is skating in the Junior A category. He hopes to get at least one metal, regardless of color, as this would open the doors of the World Championships in South Korea next month... He finished fourth (to thousandths) of the 1000 m final...
The Portuguese delegation targeted different objectives, depending on the skaters race in Junior or Senior category. In the Men Junior A category, the goal is to bring back some medals and a title. Seniors must enter the top 10.
All but one have already participated in at least one European Championship, and the motivation of each is huge. What is certain: the suspense has been maintained by the national coaches since the selection official has been revealed to the athletes, ten days before the start of the European Championships 2011. Even if they will do their best, all Portuguese athletes confessed to fear the races on the track. Indeed, most of them are fairly skating on the road, not on the track. This is probably due to the lack of tracks in Portugal: only five, including two truly ready for use, existing on the South West of the continent.
Concerning the needs, whether financial, material or human, it is certain that all delegations are not housed in the same boat! The Portuguese are not worse off, even if financial difficulties this year have deprived them of their medical staff, usually a physiotherapist and one or two coaches and a delegate of the Portuguese federation, the skaters still participate. Their national federation takes in charge all costs of the skaters on site (registration, accommodation, transport, food, equipment, clothing). Wheel sets remain to be borne by the skaters. A training camp was also organized by the federation last June in Pamplona (Spain) with the athletes eligible for selection.
Another athlete emblematic of this nation, Marta Nunes, hopes to shine on the sprint events. It is one of the most experienced of the team (she is 28 years old) and is not part of those who are new to the track. Indeed, Marta has lived a year in the Netherlands after spending several years in Belgium. She continues her athletic career on the asphalt in Northern Europe, and even more recently on the ice. Marta has reached the final of the 300m chrono without reaching the top 10. Wish her to enter the top 10 on the road for 200m!
Episode 2: The delegation of the Channel at the European Championships
If the modern sport has its sources in Great-Britain and especially in England, this does not mean that this great and ancient nation in Europe is a large old nation of roller-skating! And that's not to say the least. Indeed, the British delegation at the European Championships consists of three athletes: George Kirkman (Junior), Max Rothwell (Junior) and Dan Ibbotson (Senior). Note that Dan, in addition to skating, is also the official coach of the delegation this week. This week only, as the real coach, whose job it is, could not afford to make the trip ... And girls? "There is None," replied the athletes heart... It seems that Ghizlane Samir did not manage to export her favorite sport in his new home in London. However, there are probably a number of other reasons...
The British here in the Netherlands have no real goals. The three boys would like to finish their races and beat their personal bests. The track events were found to be complicated, especially as they have only very few structures to train properly (like Portugese): there are only two tracks in Great-Britain and no circuit strictly dedicated to roller-skating."We train on parking, but most of the time, the police comes and chases us, threatening us to give us fines. So we often change of location, instead of training" Max confesses before his one-time colleague and coach added that "on one of the parking lots, fences have even been installed to prevent skaters train." Incredible! All do not train under the same conditions, it is a certainty! And it's no surprise that we learn that this small delegation did not make training camp especially for the European Championships. The races on the road are still expected by the three skaters, because the road is a less demanding technically.
How to explain this situation? The lack of funds! All costs are borne by the athletes and their families. The Federation of Great-Britain supports the registration and also lends a skating suit, a thermal jacket and a track suit to each rider."I've got to work hard for him" confided the mother of one of the two young Juniors. And for good reason, for the English, all licensees in Nottingham, in one of five clubs in the country. The roller-skating is a heavy cost in the family budget. No assistance is paid to the club from federation, state or local government!"This is because we are not an Olympic sport, there is no bet in the world of skating and none of our competitors is in the World top 10" makes us understand the Coach of Nottingham, who was in Heerde as a non-official.If we were an Olympic sport, it really would change the situation? "Certainly! On the ice, for example, there are almost the same number of skaters, but in the case of an Olympic sport, they have government grants! Our sport is considered a leisure, a hobby," he added.But in the roller, it's a vicious circle, to form and train young athletes, clubs must find a minimum of funds. To compete with other skaters, clubs must travel. However, this still represents a cost. To get grants, you need results, but to get results, you need grants, then it goes round in circles! "It is important to put things in context" Dan insists. Next Monday, he will return to work.
So... where the young English skaters find the strengh and motivation to participate in all the races of the European championship? What they want is to "beat someone"! It's difficult, complicated. "We do not want to be ridiculous, so we give all we have! ".
Meanwhile, charismatic English skaters such as Sutton Atkins, aka "double meter" and Henry Vincent sprinter is still waiting for their successors...
Other episodes in the near future including Sweden, Poland and many more ...
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Portugal and UK
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Sweden
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Czech Republic
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Danemark
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Slovenia
Unknown delegations in European Championships 2011: Hungary
Translated by Alexandre Chartier
Photos: Daniel Busser