On 10 August 2015 at 20:08 | updated on 28 July 2018 at 09:36

Is skating a universal sport?

Is skating a universal sport?

Every practice that intends to enter the closed circle of olympic sports has to meet a number of universality criteria, i.e. being practiced in at least 50 countries on 3 continents. Out of curiosity, we drew up the map of skating countries...

By  Alexandre CHARTIER


Planisphère des pays où l'on pratique le roller

We drew this map based on the list of national skating federations recognized by the International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS). In total, there are no less than 123 countries where skating is practiced, out of the 197 countries officially recognized by the UNO, i.e. 62% of the countries in the world have an official skating body! The FIRS evaluates the number of skaters at about 50 millions in the world.

Roller DerbyWarning: These numbers hide very contrasted realities and very heterogeneous levels of development and structuration. Moreover, all countries are not attracted by the same disciplines...

The Americas: Hockey and Derby in the North, Speed Skating and rink hockey in the South

According to the map, we can observe that skating covers the whole American continent.

In North America, roller hockey knows great success thanks to strong ice skating culture in Canada and in the USA. Both are part of the best nations in the world. Speed Skating found its place with great champions like Joey Mantia, Chad Hendrick, Brittany Bowe...

North America is also the cradle of the rebirth of roller derby. After its peak years in the 30's and its return to more restricted spheres, the discipline widespread from Austin, Texas, in the early 2000's. Here again, the USA and Canada are part of the best nations in the world. The ruling body of the discipline, the WTFDA, is based in the USA.

At the end of the 90's, nearly 30 million Americans used to practice skating, particularly fitness skating.

In South America, speed skating is king, especially in Colombia, the best speed skating nation in the world. In the other countries, even if speed skating is in good position, rink hockey is part of the most popular sports, especially in Argentina where national and international events gather big crowds of spectators. Artistic skating is also widespread there. Roller derby ramps up in countries like Colombia, Chile and Argentina.

The Old Continent: A patchwork of practices

Roller Slalom en Chine (photo : Frozwheels)Europe offers a very varied landscape. Rink hockey is a major sport in Spain and Portugal. Speed Skating is present but more discreet with skaters like Ioseba Fernandez, Paxti Peula and Diogo Marreiros. Artistic and speed skating refer to Italy. Italy monopolizes the international podiums in artistic skating and dance. the Italian delegations are always impressive to watch in championships. In Speed Skating, Italy is always at the top in Europe.

France has excellent results in all disciplines but none really breaks through the media.

In Germany, popular races find their public, just like the practice of Nordic Skating and Inline Alpine, a less known discipline.

The East countries seem more interested in freestyle, with slalom and aggressive skating. The Czech Republic is the best nation in the world in roller hockey.

In Russia and in the Ex-USSR countries, slalom and freeride are the most structured disciplines. Local champions like Alexandr and Sergey Timchenko are part of the best freestylers in the world. As for freeskate and jump, old school skater ReKil is always in the running.

In Poland, Michal Sulinowski and Klaudia Hartmanis are two of the most famous skaters in slalom.

Africa: A territory in the making

The map is quite revealing as for the geographical breakdown of skating. West Africa is in the middle of a development stage and tries to structure with the West African Union of Roller Sports (UFOARS).

Freestyle skating, especially jump, is popular among young skaters. Fitness and speed skating are emerging in many countries, especially with the support of associations like WICoach who bring in equipment and run workshops for the local skaters.

The former Portuguese colonies like Angola and Mozambique have developed the culture of rink hockey. Player transfers with the old continent are not rare.

Asia: Speed and Freestyle Skating

The Middle East doesn't reveal much as for its practice of skating. Speed and fitness skating are slowly developing, especially in Israel, just like rink hockey. A sports complex dedicated to roller hockey was recently built in Iran.

In the Far East, skating has strong regional specialties. In South Korea for example, Speed skating boomed in the early 2000's with thousands of skaters at the start of competitions like the World Inline Cup. There were up to 2 million licensed skaters in Korea only, which is equivalent to soccer in France!

Roller Course en ChineIn the meantime, slalom champions emerged, like Kim Sung Jin, Lee Choong Goon and many others. Korea is still a reference in Asia today.

China slowly gained power, offering great speed skating champions like Guo Dan. The French Christophe Audoire used to be the national coach of the Chinese Team of Speed Skating.

Today, the most famous Chinese skaters are slalomers like Ye Hao Qin, Guo Fang or Zhang Hao. Their technical level is stunning... from a very young age. Gone are the days where China used to copy tricks, today they create and surpass Europe. Another noticeable point: China will host the 2nd Roller Games in Nankin in 2019.


Australia and New Zealand are two historic lands of speed skating. The Dobbin brothers, Shane and Kalon, leaved their mark in the world of speed skating, just like Angeline Thomas in the women's. The manufacturer Bont saw the light in Australia. Disciplines such as roller hockey develop there, but also roller derby.

List of the 123 national federations recognized by the FIRS

  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belarus
  • Belgium
  • Benin
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Cameroun
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • China
  • Chinese Taipei
  • Colombia
  • Congo (democratic republic)
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Hong-Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Ivory Coast
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordania
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Liban
  • Liberia
  • Libya (?)
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxemburg (?)
  • Macao
  • Malaysia
  • Malte
  • Mexico
  • Moldavia
  • Mongolia
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New-Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Perou
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Puerto Rico
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Salvador
  • San Marino
  • Senegal
  • Serbia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Somalia
  • Soudan
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Togo
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • USA
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe
  • Useful links

    Information on the national skating federations on the FIRS website

    List of evaluation criteria for sports wanting to enter the Olympic program

    Texte et illustration : Alfathor
    Photos : ReL, Frozwheels 
    Released  on 10 August 2015 - Read 6288 times

    By :
    Fondateur et webmaster de rollerenligne.com. Alexandre est un passionné de roller en général et sous tous ses aspects : histoire, économie, sociologie, évolution technologique... Ne le branchez pas sur ces sujets sans avoir une aspirine à portée de main !

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