Masters got what they deserve -
If you’re reading this I can safely assume you’re a master yourself, am I right? If so, you’d know I was trying to organize a REAL competition for masters last summer, and miserably failed due to a fatal lack of participants. The general idea was to hold something similar to Worlds, with distances in which sprinters would have something to bite their teeth on, as well as long running events for the endurance freaks… in a track full of bends and corners left and right.
Well, guess what: among ex-racers there were a handful of entries (Guenci & Co from Italy, a couple of South Americans, Johnny “OldKiwi” Peltzer, a few more here and there) and that’s about it. Add just a few Nordics and Germans interested, and maybe we got twenty at the most. Not even enough for a decent orgy, damn!
I had a theory about this letdown but before publishing it, I’d rather conduct a poll among the veterans I knew. I asked them: wouldn’t you guys have a PROPER event rather than yet another silly marathon mixed with children, old grannies and pros? Why do you think all those long-drawn-out road addicts are not interested in something like that? First and foremost, WHO are these so-called masters?
Well, after processing the results I was able to divide them in three main groups:
1- About 89% come from a different sport and started appreciating skating late in their lives as a cross-training method (mostly cyclists and runners, for the record), while others are just fitness freaks with no technical prowess but a huge enthusiasm towards inline stuff. As it is, most masters that race those mass marathons are not able to TURN. Yep, all those thousands of miles these people skate every season are always on a STRAIGHT LINE, no need for cross-overs there.
2- Some 10% are the few who used to race in their heyday, but sadly they were no champions back then (me included, obviously). This faction is possibly the worst, because many of them still think they have something to prove, so they take races too seriously (causing falls and injuries, recurring to cheats, etc) or even try to compete against the younger bunch. Sadly, they don’t realize that age and experience does not improve their skating performance, as opposed as sex. Well, to a handful of them it does, but that’s statistically negligible.
3- The last 1% are those really capable to skate, at least decently trained and possessing the right attitude towards our sport: that is, to have fun racing at our age.
As opposed as ice masters events, in which you get to skate head by head with former world (or even Olympic) champions, on inlines you’ll never see a Sarto, an Antoniel, a Bobby Kaiser or a Darlene Kessinger (I bet she’s still hot). Do you know why? I don’t either, but I guess that (at least for those of them still skating) masters’ events these days offer no stimuli, no challenge, no interest. No wonder, in fact: why would they opt for a stupid race in which everybody is allowed to participate, on second or third rate locations, paying steep entry fees, etc etc? Well, that’s exactly what the market offers today, because that’s what customers require. Those of us out of the demographics are forced (and welcomed) to change sport and go to the ice. Not a bad deal, let me assure you.
Or, if you really MUST compete on wheels, opt for the German or Dutch races exclusively organized for masters. Better yet, move to France. Only the French have a respectable race calendar for old timers (even including a couple of track events, like a national championship!), in which the general level is rather steep. It’s no surprise then to see no Frenchmen competing in those so-called Masters Euro or World Champs. South Americans are slowly moving ahead and building a continental organization that might one day held a proper world championship for veterans, but that’s still too far in the future.
I, for one, will not support any FIRS/CIC event that bestow rainbow jerseys to anybody able to pay 70€ to skate for an hour on a straight line. Until they’re properly organized, those events will keep being a joke, and the joke is on the “never-has-beens”. With all due respect, obviously.
Marcello Bresin (with thanks to my master friends who helped me with the statistics)