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Worlds 2007, the balance

Last year I had the nerve to write a personal analysis and general impressions I got from Anyang, having based my observations on whatever I could gather from pictures, shacky videos and blogs scattered around the web. My text caused some controversy, but it raised more praise than roasters among some of the high-flyers of our sport... especially a few of those that were competing in Korea. So I guess I could dare and try another shoot a Cali's Worlds.
See the 2006 Balance here >>, if you have time to spare.


Preface

One of my complaints last year was the insufficient and biased media coverage coming from the field. This time over, however, I was able to see the whole thing LIVE on my computer screen, courtesy of the Cali City Council and Telepacifico. Thumbs up for you guys! Although sometimes the images where indecipherable, while sometimes I was looking at the track miles away from the race being held, or a grass square nearby. Nevertheless it was a great and exciting experience, the closest thing to being there. For an entire week, I often found myself shouting, jumping and swearing to a laptop, from early in the afternoon to the middle of the night, upsetting my about-to-be-ex girlfriend, who is currently packing her belongings because she can't stand my obsession for speedskating anymore. Oh, never mind. She used to compete in artistic skating, you know, so I was going to dismiss her anyway one of these days.
What really matters is that nobody can take away from me what I saw during this magical mid-summer week: the smiles and the tears, the joy and the anger, the stupid and the smart. All in all, the usual smashing emotion spawned by witnessing first-hand our own World Championships.

Awards & Accolades

Overview
Apart from the inadmissible technical glitches, the locals’ typical sloppiness and the usual disaster in the judging department, no one can deny this has been another successful edition of Worlds, and hopefully a large number of illiterates out there have learn that the name of the country is ColOmbia, not ColUmbia. The Inauguration party was nowhere near the ones displayed in Suzhou or Anyang, but the venue certainly was equal to those two, even better for some observers. The uproar of the public was something never seen before in a skating venue, only comparable to a football match... in spite of the steep price of the admission ticket (as far as I know, its the very first time this happens). In addition, eight broken world records must surely mean that the highest technical level was achieved in many races. I wonder if anybody (possibly from Australia) would argue again that the "field was weak” or that equipment has dramatically improved in the last twelve months…
Kudos to Colombia and Korea, which national anthems I already know by heart. Hats off to Mr Joey Mantia, who follows the path of a certain texan highlifer. Least but not last, thanks to all those people kind enough to share their videos, pictures and observations to the rest of us so far away from Cali's warm nights.

The Overly Huge Embarrassment Award
The organizational problems where even worse than Abruzzo 2004. Too much improvisation, too many bugs made at times a pandemonium of what should be our sport's showcase to the world. ¿So they want to get into the Olympic Games? Give me a break.

The 5 Million Bucks Bounty Prize
Goes to the Colombian Federation, courtesy of Pastas La Muñeca. Now, that's what I call a win-win investment.

Disappointments
• Kalon Dobbin – A muscular strain right at the start of his time trial spelled the end of his expectations at Cali. Worlds were not the same without him.
• G. Duggento – Loosing my 10º consecutive world title for a hundredth of a second would piss me off very much too, you know?
• L. Saggiorato – Silver for just one wheel. Not that it was a Joe Average wheel, mind. But it hurts all the same, no doubt.
• Italy - They were expecting much more. To be 4º in the medals tally sounds like another failure for them.
• Spain - No medals! What's going on, Mr. Lugea?
• Chile - One bronze only! What's going on, Mr. Mora?

Surprises
It really does not come as a surprise to see Belgium back on track again, as Mrs. Hildebrand took the helm (even if Wouter has nothing to do with this renewing process). But it's nice to see Australia in the high ranks again, although an individual talent surely is not a sign of resurgence.

Confirmations
It's time to stop considering Korea the new kid on the block: they are here to stay, and it's only a question of time for them to beat Colombia. Besides, Koreans gave us all a lesson in well planned strategy being acted during the track races.
Iran is not a joke anymore: in spite of the ladies inadequate outfit, they are a respectable team already. To me, one of the most impressive improvements seen in the last few years. South Africa is slowly pulling a strong act: congratulations to Wendy.
Venezuela and Taipei are not hiding their intentions to be a rock in the big guys' shoes.
The Central American countries plus Ecuador are the other rapidly developing teams (again, courtesy of Colombia): watch out, for you can see one of their offspring climbing on a world podium sooner than later.

Questions
How many countries do really have a well planned, funded and acted development programme? I can dare to affirm that, aside from the three leading federations, no other nation is actually committing to build up their next generation of senior skaters. Everybody praises the work of elite coaches that produce world champions, but who does ever remember those coaches that took those champions as children and made them skate for the first time? How many coaches SPECIALIZED in the first stages of physical growth are there? It is my impression that too many countries did or are making the same mistake that ruined Argentina: they concentrate almost all their resources to their national team, forgetting about sowing the seeds of a future crop. A few names that come to mind: Spain, Portugal, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico.

Where were they?
Japan - Denmark - Finland - Hungary - Liechtenstein - Austria - Estonia (Helen, we miss you!): all of these countries have skaters more than capable of a decent performance at worlds. I guess the funding was absent this time.

Broken dreams (and something else)
Jessica Smith (collarbone) - Giovanna Turchiarelli (ankle) - Sheila Posada (wrist)

Best Female Performer
Miss Nicole Begg, for her consistent work in spite of racing alone against a bunch of wild ladies.

Best Male Performer
For the second year in a row, Mr. Joseph Mantia. Last year I called him "a new Chad": this guy can very possibly fare better than the flamboyant texan in years to come. But Joey will never get as much fun as The Original Chad, granted.

Best Newcomers
Bart Swings (BEL), Daniel Creig (AUS), Koen Verweij (HOL), Riccardo Bugari (IT), Sabine Berg (GER), Francesca Lollobrigida (IT), Puerto,Vallejo and Causil (COL), about half the Korean junior team!

Best Newcomers – Team
Panama. I didn't expect to see those guys skating half decently, since 4 years ago I was living over there and I was the only person on speedskates in the whole country. Colombians did a good job there, promoting and helping the sport's development.

"Future sure bets" Award
Guo Dan (China) – Simone Bellia, Leonardo Bonato and Roberta Casu (IT) – Fernando Mejia, Patxi Peula and Joseba Fernandez (ES) - Every single junior girl in the Colombian and Korean teams - Cathy Peñán and Valeria Riffo (Chile)

Best Skinsuit
New Zealand – USA – Chile - Israel

Worst Fashion Sense
1º Argentina - 2º Brazil - 3º Switzerland

Best looking Female
Still not great pools to choose from, but the nominees are: Brittany Bowe (USA) – Vicky Rodriguez (ARG) - Francesca Lollobrigida (IT) Sara Vallejo (COL) - Mariah Richardson (USA)

Best looking Male
Joey “T-Bone” Mantia – Kalon “Not available” Dobbin – Luca “Not gay” Saggiorato – Chad "Horny" Horne

Best Dramatic Performance
Nominees are: - The italian junior ladies, engaged in a bitter dispute for the marathon gold. - Colombian senior ladies: ditto. - Roberto Marrota, when asked live on TV what was his opinion regarding the 300mts mess up. - Gregory Duggento, the instant he knew he was second.

Best Comic Performance
The winner without the slightest doubt has to be Mr Giovanni Martignon. He was asked by the TV anchormen to translate to spanish an interview conducted to two italian juniors after a race. The doddery chap proceeded to repeat exactly the same words the youngsters said IN ITALIAN, just replacing "molto" (much) by "mucho". I recorded the show, and still laugh my arse off every time I watch it. Bloody hysterical!

Most Celebrated Titles
Sara Vallejo (COL), just by three THOUSANDS of a second ahead of Vicky Rodriguez (ARG) - Hebbrecht - Guyader - Joey, maybe the marathon one.

Best Underachievers
Canada - Great Britain - Hong Kong - Switzerland

Best coach
The nominees are:
• Renee Hildebrand – bringing Belgium to their former status (see her biography >> )
• Desly Hill - in charge of The Netherlands, inmediate results seen this year.
• Mumeni & Ravasi - they're cleaning up the mess very well
• Roberto Perrone – the man responsible for Iran’s team foundation, still deserving credit.
• Pancho Fuentes – currently elevating Venezuela's standard
• The whole Korean staff - four guys that know their stuff

Best Media
In spite of some exultant (and silly) announcements regarding millions of hits from certain tabloid-style websites, there is but one true winner, hands down: the Cali City Council website that broadcasted LIVE video transmissions. Was anybody watching something else? Hardly, I guess. The reporters commenting the races where much too biased most of the times, apparently forgetting that they were corresponding to the whole world, but apart from that they were generally competent. Second in line has to be the official website, which was far from perfect but offered complete and live results quick enough most of the times, plus decent press releases both in spanish and english. Runners up were half a dozen radios broadcasting also live through the internet, that allowed us to gather some extra info from a different perspective; and finally the Colombian national newspapers, that did an excellent job at covering the event.
Special mention goes to blogs and webs that kept us entertained while the live video was out: BontTV >> and Bont's Forum >>, SSW >> by Peter Doucet, WC Blog >> by Linda Wood, TeamDes >> by Desly Hill, and finally Boaz Arad >> self titled blog, the lone israeli rookie (unmisssable, for a fresh twist).

Best Judge
Are you kidding me?

OK, Worst Judge then
Since there are too many elegible, let's just award the chief judges: Mari Paz Granados (Spain - track) & Maiguel Contreras (COL - Road). It may not be fair for them both personally, but they were representing their own class in this event. Many say this has been the faultiest refereed tournament in the last 20 years and that it cannot get worse than this, but I'm optimistic: there is always room for improvement for the arrogance, ignorance and idiocy of this bunch of half-wits. Of course there are a few good judges out there... but due to their honesty and skills they are never invited to do their job at Worlds, that's a fact.
On the Referees Bullshit Big Book antology we will find three entries that marked this edition of Worlds forever:
• Causil's re-admission to the 300 final, following a quick repaint of the track borderlines: Ludicrous! We have to be thankful that the young fella did not cross the track halfway from one side to the other: otherwise that track would be circle-shaped today.
• Time trials: What they did to the athletes was inadmissible. World Championships? Ethiopian Regionals, more likely.
• Junior marathons mix-up: shared blame with the organizers there, just to be fair. But I bet my helmet that the vast majority of the referees were avoiding the rain, comfortably watching the race on the telly toghether with the senior athletes.

Special Prize - The "STINKER"
Goes to the Organizers, for:
• Not alowing foreign teams to try the track before the official training times were scheduled... and then to schedule the best possible times exclusively for the local team. Sportsmanship, anyone?
• English Official translations: on the mike they were barely understandable, but otherwise quite messy. I assume it was a nightmarish experience for the non spanish speaking teams. The "sporters carp" sign has to be the single funniest one I ever saw at Worlds!
• Fotofinish/chronometric inefficiency: Aw, come on, guys. Here's their self-justification: "The equipment currently found in the market is not specifically made for skating". Er... right.
• The Marathons Bus: whoever on Earth was the genius that came up with such a schedule? Morons!
• The points system. Who cares? MEDALS are what really count, period.
• The 50 Countries Horseshit: we may safely assume that they will continue to go on and on with this same old crap until we really reach the 50 countries count. From that moment on, I bet they will claim that there are 100 countries on the field. At least this time they brought in only a couple of rec skaters...

On a side note, allow me to annouce that as of this week I'm the new president of the Virgin Islands Skating Federation. Of course a place so aptly named must have caught my full attention, so I decided to move there and take charge of its national governing body. I happen to be also the head coach of the national team, so if you want to participate at next year's Worlds defending our glorious country's colours, send me a 1500 U$ cheque and go get some proper equipment. Mr Aracu, Mr Marotta and me will stretch out best effort to have you racing at Gijón 2008. To the right, a couple of design samples for our official national team skinsuit >>


Which one: Black or White?

Ups, I could still go on for a while but I realized this is getting too long and boring for you all. Let me finish now, before I loose my next girfriend too.
Goodnight, skaters. Nos vemos en Gijón!

Marcello Bresin
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