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Chad Hedrick + DPRA

Together with world champ and former World Cup star Francesco Zangarini, this year Mr. Hedrick is conducting a series of camps around the globe. I regretted not being able to interview Chad during his racing career, but finally I had my chance in september '15, when he was in Italy. So the first round of questions were for him:

This is the second camp you are doing in Italy (1st in 2004), this time not breaking any law -so far- and actually with some people attending it… what’s different this year, mo’ money?
Well, the first time it was just me, basically only skating in front of kids, not much more. Now we have a structure, a program in which we pour our experiences and wisdom to teach the kids, not only technically but more than that: trying to impact their lives, to show what it takes to be a champion, on and off skates.

These days everyone and his granny has an “academy” or do clinics: is it enough to have world or national titles?
I feel like a lot of people around the world (including myself in the past) have taken everything away from the sport, not giving anything back. After reflecting many years, as a retired athlete, I see that we need to get back to the sport, to change things, to invest on it. I´m one man, but working with Francesco, sharing our vision, we can build a better future for the kids.

Back in the day when you were the top guy, we mostly admired Chad the party animal… Now you´re a born-again Christian: what went wrong with you, man?
When I was skating, my attitude was “work hard, play hard” so I really wanted to enjoy my success… and I did! There was a lot of times I did thing “normal champions” would not do, some things I’m not proud of and some things I’m happy I did, but it was great fun! Now, many year later, I have children on my own, I really grew up.

No chance to get sex stories then…
Nah… I had fun, celebrate, had a beer… that’s how I lived!

After the 20th or 40th world title: weren’t you bored of beating again and again all those morons?
You always wanna prove you’re the best. It’s like having an "X" on your back, so you want to continue to tell people “I’m the best” and you’ll do anything it takes.

But for so many years? Seems like boring anyway!
Unfortunately at that point there wasn’t anything bigger for me to do…. Until I set my eyes on the ice. It was a dream for me to be able to explain to people what I did for a living! The Olympics really changed my life, I’m so thankful for it.

How did you started?
It was in Calgary, in 1999. I tried, like, for two weeks and I gave up… which is not like me, given my personality. So I jumped back to being a world champion on inlines!

Is it true the Dutch gave you a hard time in your early ice career?
I trained there for some time after I qualified for the USA team. The locals found really strange the way I skated (naturally trying to do double push), the way a Texan would dress for the winter weather… it was hard, put also fun.

Hey, still hard feelings with Shany?
No. I don’t have any problem with him at all. I just wanted to win. We had the privilege as Americans, as Olympians, to try to win as much medals as we could. So no hard feelings, but I still believe we could have taken that gold.

Please give me advice from Chad the Family Man to protect my daughter from guys like you were once….
You know, there’s no doubt I changed. It was a process to became the man that I am today, a man with morals, honesty, integrity. I would teach my daughters to look for men that are true leaders of this world, people that represent something special.

Would you advice a young gun to go the long track path instead of wasting time on inlines?
They don’t have a chance to make money unless they’re top 5 in the world...

Which beats any day being the top one on inlines…
Ice is a small, traditional sport. These days, skaters think they can jump to ice and be rich and famous overnight, but they don’t realize it’s been inlines that provided a platform to build our success, for me and others. At 15, 16 you don´t have the tools you need to skate at a good level, so I would advise young inliners to first reach the top level in their sport before switching to ice.

Now on business, questions for both:

Whose idea was this enterprise?
(Chad) I started a small camp in February this year, with 75 people from 9 countries. I had no idea how special it would have been, with all this people coming to see me skate, to learn from my wisdom and knowledge. So I light went off in my head, I started to think about my life after sports, a career in the oil business that lacked the passion I always lived with, and it would never be the same unless I went back to do what I love… I was really surprised about how excited I was to be there, how respected I was. So I started this vision: it’s crazy how it worked out in the past few months, I had a couple of persons back into my life which I told about my idea. Francesco was one of them and he was, he was really excited about it, also looking for the same thing… Here we are, helping our sport grow. Every kid has a dream, it may be skating it may not, but if we can teach them how to accomplish that dream, motivations, dedication, sacrifice, it´s very exciting for us.

And why did you choose each other? Obviously, there were much better options out there…
(Chad) Francesco’s got a heart for the sport, he’s credible, he speaks several languages (which helps me a lot), he’s honest and professional… he’s got a mindset much like mine. Several reasons he’s my partner.
(Francesco). He’s Chad, man!

OK, but this is called Double Push Academy, and by the looks of it, you’ve got mostly kids attending….
(Both) Every country is different; you’ve got all levels, all ages, all types of people, which makes it even more fun for us. Not two camps are alike! These camps are organized by federations, clubs, single organizers interested in having skaters learning more. We focus especially in kids because they are the future, but we cater for all skaters.

I mean: are you teaching double push to sever-years old?
(Chad) We’re teaching the fundamentals of skating, which lead to the double push; the things that I practiced from a very young age that gave me the advantage to became a world champ.

Like, mental stuff?
(Both) No! It’s very technical! Exercises that make you form habits to create good technique.

Knowing my chickens, I suppose you encounter indifference or suspicion as well…
(Francesco). Yes, because they don’t know our vision at first. Mind, this is not only skating technique: for instance, last week in Spain we visited a Dawn Syndrome facility, this week in Italy we attended a charity in a school…. Soon we´ll be in Nigeria, where there are about 400 skaters and only 30 pairs of skates they share! We’ll teach them to skate better, and we sell clothes to raise money for this project. In every country we visit, we do something out of our hearts.

So you’re not here for the money, then?
(Chad) No! Believe me, I made a lot more money in the past.

I bet you did, but you spent it all in Las Vegas! How did you get your wives to allow all this travelling? Or are you divorcing?
(Chad) It´s difficult but it´s special to have a wife who understand your purpose in life. I have three kids, but I wasn’t designed to sit behind a keyboard to make money: I was given a special talent and I must share that.
(Francesco) I haven’t been away all that long!

Would you endorse my soon-to-be published book about coaching?
Sure, send us a copy!

Marcello Bresin - 2015©

Thank you, guys!

Francesco Zangarini