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The Sk8ologist
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Korea's bright future

The first time I saw Korean skaters live was back in 1993, during the ISU Junior World Championships in Baselga di Piné (Italy). They certainly made an impression, with an extremely refined style and great sportsmanship, nothing short of the big powers (Holand, Norway, Usa, etc). And it was also the first time I established cultural contact with these Asian people: it was truly appalling to witness their politeness, their solid preparation, their rigid discipline.

Photo: KRSF

Competition was a deadly serious issue for them, but when it was all over… Boy, did they love going to the disco! Very nice guys, indeed. But at that time I would have never imagined these guys and girls in in-lines, as probably did most people in Europe… and the rest of the world, for that matter.

Next time I saw them again, I was sitting with Mr. Martignon (Italian national team coach) on L' Aquila’s rink in 2004, wondering along with him how these guys could have made a spectacular progress in such a short period. One couldn’t avoid but gaze in awe as their long line of skaters passed by, all of them (and I mean ALL) rolling in unison with EXACTLY the same technique and even same style. A very polished technique let me add.
"They all must came from ice", I suggest, but Mr. Martignon agrees partly. "Yes, ice has something to do with it. But, on the other side", he affirms, "I've been to Korea recently, and you should see the enormous movement inline skating has over there. It's amazing!".
He’s quite true. Time and time again we hear that Internet itself has played a big role in Korean skating development: the “word of mouth” channelled by the www has created a massive popular movement over there, which as a logical result had enhanced the speed skating scene. (See Dr. Spark’s interview >>)
But no matter how, Korea is today one of the planet’s superpowers of this sport, and they are here to stay.

Check them at Worlds: we all are sincerely admiring not only the superb scheme the Koreans display on the rink, but also their modus operandi outside of it, with a magnificent crew surrounding their racers. Doctors, coaches, technicians... all of them with walkie-talkies, working with practised flawlessness, everybody lovely attired in their fancy uniforms. Only one team can boast a perfect organization like this: Colombia.

And their strict discipline! Very much as that old ice team, these youngsters maintain a monk’s self-restrain, work methodically and follow orders from their authorities with no protest. (However, I had no time to be aware of all that in Abruzzo: I was paying more attention to the gorgeous girl they had as translator. Ah, yes: she was a great translator too!)

In addition, what caused more question marks appear over the heads of tecno-savvy guys like us a few years back where all those new and exciting materials these Asians were carrying with them. What? Balls and springs inside the wheel? A 150 gr frame with a new extrusion concept, you said? I'VE GOT TO GET ONE!
It seemed their production would collapse the market, but the "Korean goods invasion" did not materialize as sombrely prophesized during 2004 Worlds, mainly because high prices and no suitable global distribution. Still, they have the greatest number of manufacturers per capita in the whole world, and little by little are improving equipment through innovation. They still can be the market leaders one day…

As for athletic results, their performances in the last few editions of Worlds prove a constant growth in medals collection, so I wouldn't be surprised if soon they become THE leaders of the international scene. They aim to be among the top three nations this year, and I can safely bet that they will succeed. But they already have got gold on these championships: the infrastructure built to host the tournament is without doubt the best ever.

As far as I can see, the only possible cause of failure they might encounter could be their own obsessive ingestion of garlic and onions, a habit I’m confident they can easily overcome... As they actually did drop out dog from their diet. Or did they?
Anyway, keep up the good work, guys! I, for one, will love to see Korea up there battling for skating supremacy. You're almost there: the next Colombia.

Marcello Bresin

Colombia's secret
Worlds 2006, the balance