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Worlds 2012, the balance

As much as three persons told me they were eager to read my next “balance”, enough public for me to give birth to this edition after last year's hyatus. Let me begin by praising the effort made by Mr Bugari and his staff: if it wasn’t for their heart and effort, there wouldn’t have existed a speedskating World Championship this year. With less than two months and limited resources to organize such a big event (the usual Italian political nonsense notwithstanding), I for one was surprised everything went so smoothly. Of course there were a few glitches here and there, but I’ve seen worst (Gijon ’08 comes to mind immediately). Even the bad weather couldn’t totally ruin the party those last couple of days during the road portion. So thanks, Romolo! But next time please pay for a proper logo and useful website.
Speaking about the dirty political landscape, we all should rejoice at yet another reelection for our beloved CIC President. All those countries voting him are obviously not lured by his charm, surely grateful for all his achievements during twenty years of brilliant management, honest and transparent funds administration, unbiased World’s Head Judges nominations, successful antidoping campaign, effective international development plan, and, greatest feat of all, our Olympic inclusion. Hail the President, you heartless fools! May he keep governing our sport until he and only himself will be standin g alone on a deserted track.
But we are getting close to truly have the sought after 50 competing countries: this year there were 48 present, of which 10 were comprised of a single skater and 6 had two members.
Let’s give way to the venues criticism, then. Ascoli’s refurbished old track was unquestionably not fitting for current long distance racing, where a crowded pack has a huge chance to hurt itself lap after lap, and winning has a rather fat fortune component (which I hate). Homologated tracks my arse! That being said, it is my opinion that, since only highly skilled skaters can negotiate corners in such a track, sprints are wonderfully spectacular… definitely a great show to the knowledgeable and unaware spectator alike. I wouldn’t completely dismiss these little tracks for future world championships, but I consider them only suitable for time trials, sprint races, even to bring back the old pursue one-on-one race, or try something new like long track’s team races. Why not? But there has to be some border limiting system in all our ovals (modern specifications or not), as I saw too many skaters (especially women) turning well over the internal line, be it on time trials or any other race. I suppose we can implement very small cones similar to those used in short track, not dangerous for the skaters but if a couple of them are moved by someone, disqualification is in order.
Regarding the road event, as much as I liked the circuit there were a couple of re-paved spots that were dangerous, especially when wet. Moreover, there is a significant downhill in the curve preceding the arrival, so I wouldn’t know if world records should be acknowledged in such a track. Lastly, with so many trees to the inside of the circuit it was virtually impossible for judges and public alike to really appreciate what was going on in the pack! Fortunately, that was splendidly solved in the evenings, when a giant screen installed in front of the stands displayed the TV coverage with several cameras’s takes. Awesome!
The marathon was entirely a different business: while the two straightaways were well paved along a lovely seaside promenade, one of the spots chosen to turn was awfully dangerous, too narrow, a rabbit burrow full of gravel… and the other one was even worse. So you can imagine the push and shove affair in the last corner! And there was no way of watching the arrival, as only judges could be in and around that area.

Now let me tell you something about the races in particular. There was so very little speculation, so much wholeheartedly athletic guts… especially in the male junior ranks. Amazing competition, the way a true world championship should be! Beforehand I sustained it should have been a slightly washed up edition of Worlds because a number of superstars would not attend; somebody argued that my statement was wrong. I guess the final result was something in between both positions, all in all a fantastic collection of memorable performances from some of the best skaters I had ever seen. Ever! And the junior boys… they raced as if there was no tomorrow, as if their lives were at stake (it was really the case for certain youngsters depending on government funds). But what truly pleases me is to verify that the technical gap between traditionally strong nations and relative rookies is closing fast, year after year. It certainly has something to do with this trend of signing in foreign ex-world champs and/or coaches: big kudos must go to South Africa (Wouter Hebbrechts) and Mexico (Gregory Duggento), as they had quite a few finalists in sprint/time trial races. Other countries which had invested big bucks in their development with good alien coaches -thus presenting respectable teams with respectable results- are India, Iran, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Ecuador and China (Guo Dan finally got a well deserved gold). Special mention should go to Cuba, Dominicana and Puerto Rico: they are coached by Colombian guys living there, doing a great job in spite of counting only one or two athletes in some cases, but definitely world class athletes. Even newcomer Turkey had an extremely handsome and very capable foreign coach…
It must be noted that lately certain European and Latin American countries are also displaying technically valid skaters, countries that only a couple of Worlds ago were considered little more than a joke, such as Czech Republic, Guatemala, Hungary and Costa Rica. Alas, on the other hand there are those countries that have been taking part at worlds forever, but never seem to grow: Japan, Canada, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Australia… I was about to say also Denmark and Great Britain, but this year they finally had a couple of young guys who showed some promise: hopefully there’s more than that, or was it just individual talents? That might be UK’s case. The problem, I believe, is not lack of good coaches or skaters, but in most cases a lack of an upright national governing body. For instance, I couldn’t believe the shamelessness vaunted by this Spanish crook, lurking around the venues showing off with a permanent smile on his stupid face, as if his failure to organize Euro Champs was something to be proud of, or as if bringing a team with only two skaters was a triumph. Please, sod off!
During 200m finals I was sitting with Mr Daniel Greig, who aside from being the best Australian skater in the last decade, confirmed me that he and Brooke Lochland (another possible medal contender) were out of their national team allegedly because of the selection rules, mainly because their ice endeavors disgust some high level officials. Well done, Ozzie idiots! Keep your know-it-all, I’m-in-command attitude and your country will never get back where it belongs, near the top of the medal tally. Similar situation but on a smaller scale could be observed in the French morons who deliberately left out of the team a certain Monsieur Guyader: at least a couple of medals thrown away, I betcha.
Other two teams that didn’t bring their best possible ensemble were Korea and USA, but for entirely different reasons. An important continental competition was being held in Asia while Worlds in Italy, so for Koreans it was a question of prestige –and ultimately money. But the old US of A really amazes me: the land of opportunity, the empire that rules the world, a nation with as much medals as Colombia in the past, the golden ridden winner at the Olympics… falls short to pay for their own skaters to be at world championships! At this point, I firmly believe that whenever they cannot prevail at a real sport for some reason or another, they invent their own homemade retarded version: American football, baseball, and now I suppose it’s all about roller derby. Or is it a question of avoiding discrimination, so even ugly fat chicks can also have their own sort of sport? I would kill to know Peterson, Muse, Parra and Hedrick’s points of view on their team’s decay. Still, one cannot but admire the effort made by USA’s clubs, parents, coaches and skaters alike to represent their undeserving country they way they did this time: heroic, at any rate!
Yet another incomprehensible case for me is Canada. An immensely rich realm, an ice speedskating superpower, it has never been able to grow up to a minimally critical point. Not much seems to be going on over there in and about our sport. How come?

Now let me spend a few words about the big players, if I may. Colombia still is the big father we should look up to learn from; however we recently found out it’s becoming a doped, cheating father. Hey, nobody’s perfect! I had a conversation with a couple of their major virtuosos about the souping inclination their teammates have as of late: it’s a question of naivety, they said… Really? What I didn’t like at all was their increasing recourse to pushing and grabbing, especially among the lady ranks. And I’m not only talking about the infamous 500m track final, in which Baena denied a gold to Zanetti by clutching her arse 20 meters before the finish line. No sir, it was a general grabfest. Why oh why? Do they actually need it? Perhaps it is so hard to make it to the national team back home, they are forced to claw their way up to the top.
Italy seems to be back on track after a disastrous season last year. Their medal collection was mainly –once again- delivered courtesy of their female team, but Massi shouldn’t need to worry, as he has a wide and deep pool to choose from in the next years. What’s more, they devised a multi-year technical improvement plan to be acted by Lollobrigida, their new head coach and someone not to be easily dismissed if you know something about this sport… Stay tuned! Korea and Taipei once again delivered the goods, not winning more medals by pure chance, often showcasing the most intelligent tactics, always mastering perfect technique. France never loses their savoir faire, plus they can always count on Contin, still on top form in spite –or thanks to- his ice career, as well as Fernandez, Lepivert and young upstart De Souza, but in my personal opinion they are suffering a slight decline in recent years. I suppose it’s just a normal cycle. Same can be said perhaps about Belgium, which cannot be summed up as only Bart and little less, no way! But then again, their growth curve does not seem to be going up, much like Portugal, Austria and Germany: a steady growth for a few years, then the general level remains constant, then up again. Something similar was also happening to The Netherlands (without the up time), but this year Desly Hill’s work finally paid its lavish dividends on the road circuit. I was particularly impressed by her team! New Zealand has got an incredible, almost unbeatable Peter Michael (especially on track) plus Mr Begg is back at the helm now, so there is no doubt Kiwi’s will be soon collecting truckloads of medals, as they used to do not so long ago. Interestingly Venezuela has got no medals this time over, whilst Chile recovered a much higher position on the general classification: that’s no coincidence. Last year Pancho Fuentes was fired from the Bolivarian team, went back home and started working again with some of his former pupils… and there you go, Chile remains firmly as the second power in South America. Instead, the fourth or fifth Argentina (once upon a time the sole dominators in the whole continent) has got positive result altogether, mainly due to Lugea’s great work and welcomed fresh government dosh, but it might have been a swan song, for their senior ranks have a too high average age, and the junior team they presented… is about 90% of the total amount of said category back home.
Finally, I feel the need to express some thoughts about the judging service. I’ve been tantalizing referees forever, as I had to bear their ineptness and stupidity on my own skin and my skaters’… But I must admit that this year, even if the chief referees were the regular pair of favourite girls, there was less customary bullshit. Sure enough, timing transponders were used on the road and silly mistakes and clumsiness were ever present, but in minor quantity/quality than in the past.

Well, enough with the whapping. Allow me to proceed now to the annual awards ceremony. The nominees are:
● Best New Kid on the Block: Mexico and South Africa
● Best new entry: Mike Paez (MEX), Linda Rossi (ITA)
● Next superstars: Yessenia Escobar, Magda Garcés, Andrés Campo and Juan Camilo Pérez (COL)… at least until antidoping results are published. Sang Cheok Lee (KOR), Chilean male junior team
● Best Talent confirmations: Joseba Fernandez, Livio Wenger, Giulia Buongiorno, Katharina Rumpus
● Best Ass Grab: too many to mention
● Most pleasant surprise: no big organization upsets!
● Best Villain: MPC, Matter. Wheels market’s fucked up by their dual evil monopoly, people is looking forward to welcome at least one new player to the game. About time!
● Best disappointment: Mario Valencia (USA), Venezuela.
● Best skinsuit: Austria, Poland, Switzerland, Chile
● Best Comeback: Patrizio Triberio. Genius! Also Maria Jose Moya and the entire Italian team.
● Golden Skate, male: Peter Michael, Andres Felipe Muñoz, Pedro Causil, Bart Swings, Ewen Fernandez, Fabio Francolini
● Golden Skate, female: Erika Zanetti, the entire Colombian senior team (bar doping), Francesca Lollobrigida
● Best Looking Guy (as voted by our female friends and associates): Francolini, Muñoz, Stelly, Mulder
● Miss Worlds (as voted by our male friends and associates, not me!): Vicky Rodriguez (ARG), Aleksandra Goss (POL), Giulia Buongiorno + Linda Rossi (ITA), Clémence Halbout (FRA), half the Dutch Team.
● Best Coach: - Elias del Valle (COL), once again - Pancho Fuentes (CHL) – Desly Hill (NED) – Bill Begg (NZL) – Carlos Lugea (ARG)
● Best Judge: Barbara Fisher (GER), Manuel Fanego (CUB)… possibly the only decent judges out there.
● Best online coverage: >> (by far!)
● Most Stupid mistake EVER: Italian junior female team not starting the marathon for wrong scheduling.

Thanks for reading, will be back for belgium 2013.
Marcello Bresin

Related article: Euros 2012, the balance >> 

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