World Championships

Wednesday 1st September

Sitting in the lounge at Changi (Singapore’s International Airport). While, being a Hong Kong person, I have never been a big fan of Singapore, more for political reasons than anything else, I must say that Changi is a very nice airport. Obviously, its not as nice as Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport (because if it was, IT would have won the award for best airport and not the other way around). I remember when I first heard that there were showers at this airport, I was very young and not a seasoned traveller, and I thought to myself “what a ridiculous idea, who on earth needs to shower at an airport”. Now, having been on a 7 hour flight from Melbourne and being about to go on a 10+ (I lose count after 10 because I run out of fingers) hour flight to London, I have come to the shock realization of how good a shower at an airport can be. Even if it does cost $10. The other really cool thing about Changi? Wireless internet access, oh yeah! $6 for half an hour, but when you’re in transit for all of one hour, its like paying for coffee… except that I don’t drink coffee. With any luck, getting internet access will be just as easy in the days to come.

Thursday 2nd September

My my my, what a long day its been, and not just because I’m flying in *that* direction with respect to the time zones (clockwise, anticlockwise? which way does a clock go anyway?). My plane from London to Rome was delayed by quite a bit, which basically extended my trip to about 40 hours. From the moment I left my flat in Melbourne to the moment I hit the track at L’aquilla, almost exactly 40 hours. About 25 of those hours were spent in the air, and the rest was spent in airport lounges and on the 2 hour drive from Rome to L’aquilla.

Lounge at London Heathrow

Hmm… what else? Oh, it rained pretty much as soon as I got here, but it dried up and I got to have a go on the track. Pretty much everyone is here, and I spent alot of the day trying to remember the names of people I met at last year’s worlds. We had a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant (yes, I know, by definition, ANY restaurant here could be considered Italian) and I felt at home because I thought to myself “ah, I feel like I’m back on Lygon St. in Melbourne”. Anyway, I’m exhausted so I’m going to go to bed now (yes, beds kick arse compared to economy-class seats).

Fridayday 3rd September

Today was interesting, we got to have a go on the track and it feels very fast. The track is banked in the corners but, unlike other banked tracks I’ve skated in the past, the banking is straight and not parabolic. This basically means that the advantage one gains from being “high” on the banking is minimal. I also purchased a very expensive but cool-looking set of wheels with carbon fibre hubs. They’re very light but make a strange squeaking noise which has me a little bit worried.

“Induction” for juniors

The day ended with a very long boring and drawn out opening ceremony which concluded with lots of fireworks which weren’t terribly impressive. I think the Italians would’ve been better off spending the money on better buses and toilet facilities for the athletes, I think I could’ve crapped on the floor and nobody would’ve noticed the difference…

I got to carry the flag for the ceremony! Yay!

Saturday 4th September

It seems that getting internet access is going to be something of a challenge. The organisation of transport to and from the track is a bit terrible which means it will also be difficult to get any work done. My 300m time trial sucked royally. A combination of competition nerves, 40 hours of recovery from 40 hours of travelling and all of 2 hours to get used to the track came together to produce a magnificent example of what not to do in a worlds 300m time trial. 28.9s may be by far my best banked track time trial, but considering I placed something like 46th and was beaten by alot of people who I really should’ve beaten… well, suffice to say that I wasn’t a happy chappy. Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall, of Eltham Roller Skating Club, managed to smack up my time and I’m sure I’ll never hear the end of it. The 15k elimination heats were boring, partly because they didn’t really eliminate very many people (in fact, in one of the junior girls’ heats, enough people dropped out that they didn’t need to do an elimination at all.

A fairly pedestrian pace in the Junior Girls 15000m elimination heats

Our disgust with the toilet facilities finally got the better of us and a small group including myself arranged a bus trip to a nearby McDonalds (can anyone say “Supersize Me”?) for the sole purpose of using their toilets.

Whether it be Eltham or L’Aquilla, you can’t keep the Eltham boys out of Maccas!

Tonight, Michael Byrne (also of Eltham RSC) was in the 15k elimination final and was skating very well, that is until he was grabbed by some Argentinian guy and they both got disqualified.

Some speed across the line in the elimination finals

Sunday 5th September

Today kicked off with the heats of the 1000m, one of my favourite events. It also saw the heats of the 10k points elimination, which is not one of my favourite events. Either way, I was beginning to recover from all my flying, so I was skating better with every passing hour. This was just as well, as my results weren’t improving. On the advice of dutch skater Roy Boeve, I changed wheels to some Hyper “Stripes”. The stripes are interesting in that they are decorated in such a way as to look like a US flag. Fair enough, you say, seeing as Hyper is an American company. The strange thing, is that they are actually made in Europe, who’s flag has stars, but no stripes. Well, I thought this was amusing.

The 10k points elim finals were held at night (as were most finals) which meant that, as a general rule, I would do most of my racing in the morning and rest up at night while watching all the finals. Obviously, if I got into any finals this would foil this schedule, but there didn’t seem to be any danger of that happening.

Monday 6th September

Today the strangest thing happened. I was on the start line for my 500m heat and Jordan Malone (of several world titles) turns to me, smiles and says “good luck Yeowie”. This freaked me out a little and all I could say was “…umm… yeah, thanks… err… you too Jordan”. What I should’ve done is turned to him and said “yeah, good luck to you too… umm… er… hold on, its coming to me…. starts with a “J” doesn’t it?…. umm…. hey! you’re Josh Wood aren’t you?! Love your work! Yeah, good luck man!”, but alas, my razor sharp wit had deserted me for that moment.

Jordan cruises through the early rounds of 500m heats.

Today also saw the relay heats and finals. Unfortunately none of the Australian relays made it into the finals. The senior men’s relay heats also saw a mishap for the Hong Kong team when we almost missed a tag and me and Steven Chan went down and scraped some skin off our already bruised and battered bodies.

The junior girls make ready for their heat

Gethyn Sharp-Bucknall gets a taste of some friendly local hospitality

The relay finals in the evening saw a spectacular crash from Italy in the senior men’s division who, to their credit managed to chase down a bronze medal but alas couldn’t catch the Americans and French who took Gold and Silver respectively.

One of my proudest moments as a photographer… possibly not one of the Italian’s proudest moments as a skater…

Tuesday 7th September

Today was a rest day, but not an exciting one. We had to move hotels from L’Aquilla to Sulmona and it was quite an effort. The real problem is that we’re not actually staying in Sulmona, but in a ski-resort village called Rocarasso which is some 1200m above sea level. As a result, I was all puffed out after ascending six flights of stairs. Luckily the accomodation is very nice and the hotelier speaks fairly good English (better English than most of the Hong Kong team). The food is also fantastic and, as we are pretty much the only people staying at the hotel, we get our meals made for us pretty much whenever we want. If only Rocarasso wasn’t a 40 minute drive from Sulmona.

Wednesday 8th September

Duggento, after crashing at the end of his 300m time trial on track, came back for a win in the 200m time trial on road. A video of it can be found here. The 5000m points heats followed and I had a rather unfortunate run in with the skates of a nearby Spanish skater just moments after the starting pistol was fired. This left me on the ground right at the start, which is not a good way to begin a 5000m points race. Try as I might, I couldn’t catch the pack again, but I was able to catch a few people who had drifted off the back. We also had another opening ceremony… and more fireworks… and I got to hold the flag again

The crowded start of the points race carries with it some risk that you might get stepped on if you happen to find yourself on the ground… as I found myself.

Thursday 9th September

500m heats kicked off this fun-filled day of racing. Although I didn’t make it through to the semis, I felt that I was finally starting to get some rhythm into my skating. Corey Price got through his heat with an impressive ’round-the-outside move on the last corner.

Luca Presti leads his 500m heat.

Two Korean’s go ’round the outside in the 20k elim

The schedule for worlds is starting to irk me a bit. We have to wake up at an ungodly hour of the morning, get on a bus which takes 40 minutes to get to Sulmona – that’s fine. We race in the morning then we have a break in the afternoon. This is where the problem lies, the bus is not always on time – today we had to wait for over an hour for our bus. Add that to the fact that we have a one hour and twenty minute round trip to and from Rocarasso and a 3-4 hour afternoon nap quickly turns into a 30 minute snooze. After the evening of racing, which would often end at midnight or later, we would end up going to bed at 1-2am. As a result, we don’t really get much sleep. This is bad.

Gethyn suffering from not getting enough sleep…

The 500m finals were very exciting, but the most exciting race was definitely the junior girls. The Columbian was disqualified (and rightly so) for putting the American into the ground, and Chinese Taipei were relegated for pushing an Italian. So the final order was Italy, Chinese Taipei, USA. Here is the clip of the race, courtesy of the worlds official website.

Friday 10th September

Last day of road competition. I must say, I will miss skating in the middle of a town square with a lovely fountain and aqueduct in the background. Apart from the altitude, this really is one of the coolest places I’ve ever had the privilege of skating at. Today I don’t have to skate as our senior men’s team is disabled. One of our skaters had a little fall last night and when he got up this morning, his knee was blown up like a small balloon and we had to carry him (literally) to hospital where the skills of the translating staff were put to the test.

The junior boys relay team discusses their strategy.

In other news, Dante Muse, multiple world champion and living legend of the sport of speedskating dropped by for a chat. I didn’t recognize him at first and was having a very technical conversation with Mick, Mark Kinzett and him when I turn to Dan Finster and say “hey, who the hell is this guy?” to which Dan rolled his eyes and said “jeeez Yeowie, its Dante Muse”. Anyway, I got him to sign my hat – he is, to this day, the only skating person whom I have ever asked for an autograph from.

Dante and Mick talk shop about skates

Saturday 11th September

Today was a fun day, and not only because we had to move all our stuff AGAIN. The marathon was at a lovely spot in Italy called Pescara which is on the Adriatic coast… which is at sea-level. I got to race with a chip for the first time ever.

I had great fun in the marathon, I was actually IN the pack, mixing it with the best of them for almost two full laps before I blew up and dropped off. After everything was over, I managed to swap an American skinsuit and, what’s more, it was Jordan Malone’s. Clearly, Mick must’ve told him a thing or two about me because apparently I have a “reputation” in skating circles and he agreed to swap skinsuits with me on the basis of that. So, along with the SAAB-Solomon, Rollerblade and Mogema skinsuits, I get to add a USA suit to my worlds 2004 bounty.

Danny and Geoff looking suave in their white jackets.

Tonight was also the dinner. The dinner was actually quite nice… there was actually some food (unlike the dinner in Venezuela). It was in a castle, which was different. After the dinner we all went to some club which was organised for us where there was a DJ and a bar. The bar was severely understaffed and understocked. By the time I found my way there, they had run out of beer! It also took about 20 minutes to get to the bar…

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