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Worlds 2008, the balance

Once again I’ll try and kick the ball with my –already customary- crude and possibly objective balance of our beloved World Championships… only this time I was there. I’m writing this while still suffering a post-Worlds depressive syndrome: after so many adventures, emotional roller coasters and parties, it’s easy to miss all that. Yes, I’m missing my new and old friends, even missing my old and new enemies!
I did not attend the last 3 World Champs, but to be honest from Italy’04 I didn’t notice much improvement. The Asian and Colombian tournaments set new standards (in organizational and inaugural celebration aspects the first, in public attendance the second); this one was pompously and unrealistically acclaimed as the “best in history” beforehand; alas it was just average for a number of reasons. But Worlds are Worlds, the epitome of so much effort and sacrifice from coaches and athletes, and it shows in competition, believe me. I’m still wondering how come the bloody television execs didn’t spot yet the astonishing show staged by our skaters!

Yeah, you got it right, mate

The Balance

General remarks
All in all, it’s been a good tournament, but it was far from being the best in history. Logistically speaking there were not many breakdowns, but nevertheless the organization failed in many facets. Fortunately, racing was -as always- wholesomely spectacular, the top athletes’ technical mastery a delight for the eyes, although a larger than ever quantity of skaters and certain characteristics of both venues (perhaps even larger wheels) added an increased danger factor, translated in more than usual nasty falls with broken bones included. Ouch.

Thumbs up
As mentioned there were no big issues with logistics. Hotels and meals were decent at worst, transportation was adequate, although it must be said that the travel agency in charge of the official accommodation offered a rather crappy service. The poorest teams (i.e. Israel, Kenya, Paraguay, etc) were presented with free food and accommodation, which was nice. Truth be told, the racing program was executed as per schedule: no delays, except a short one on the second day of road races, due to a slight drizzle.
Even though it shouldn’t be mentioned, there were no chronometric system problems this time over.
There you go. Not many positive things to say, right? Now brace up for the negative ones…

Down the drain
● Volunteers: the organizers were picky in their selection; as a result they got an insufficient amount of free workers for such a large event like this. In fact, volunteers were supposed to have specific tasks allocated, but they ended up doing everything everywhere, working for much more hours than originally agreed. In addition, it became obvious that these volunteers were not properly instructed, and worse yet, not adequately rewarded. In consequence, national teams were not satisfactorily handled since their assigned personal was of little or no use; at the venues volunteers were a nuisance instead of a helpful and pleasant presence. More than one foreigner told me that they were happy to leave after so much abuse; I was able to witness locals to exhibit a lack of empathy, flexibility or even politeness towards athletes, delegates and such.
● Announcers: It was even worse than Italy’04. The guy in charge of the mike for the Spanish speaking audience was ludicrously inept; his mistakes in calling names and races were inacceptable. The lady announcing in English was as bad as last year in Cali, some of her inventions in spanglish are still an ongoing joke among skaters and spectators alike ( see here >>)
● Press: So-so. During the track races we had almost no Internet connection, and the press office was awful. At the road venue things improved a bit, but results still came erratically and there was no phone line during the whole tournament, so the radio journalists left rather pissed.
● Spectators: Quite possibly the championship with lower attendance in the last 10 years (or more), perhaps due to a rather meagre promotion in local and national media, although bad weather could be partially blamed too.
● Inaugural ceremony: Pathetic! Worst ever. Folkloric displays are OK as long as they are brief, nations’ parade was quick and incomplete (some countries represented just by a sign: what for?), and politician’s speeches were thankfully short. But what was believed to be the secretive main attraction, turned up to be an excruciatingly extended and vomitive jugglery played by three amateurs with no talent whatsoever. The audience was left back-arsed in disbelief, as these pitiful so-called clowns carried on something indescribable, a sorry display that wouldn’t make us laugh even if we drank five gallons of the local cider. In fact, that’s exactly what we needed to do just to forget such painful horror. I’d like to meet the bastard that thought something like that was suitable for Worlds: a hard kick in the jacksie is in order!

More crap
● The environment was heated via a few rogue quarrels courtesy of the internal turmoil the Spanish Federation is suffering lately, added to the familiar political nonsense from FIRS/CIC. Not nice to see in a World Championship, no doubt. Spanish skaters are clean, I’m sure of it, but their Federation is not, granted. I heard and saw enough things to get to the conclusion that they have much to hide under the carpet; I might be writing an entire article if I collect more data on this subject.
● TV broadcast: a failure. Halfway the event, there was no streaming video on Internet, nor TV signal; there was no coverage, not even refers to Worlds on national TV. Another missed chance.
● No technical congress: there’s nowhere like Worlds for coaches to meet and chat about methods, technique and new technologies… How come there was no seminar this year?
● Fee for track use: a shameful, bad precedent for our sport. When I mentioned this to a volunteer, a Mr Manuel Fueyo, Gijon '08 Managing Office Director, had the nerve to send me an insanely extensive e-mail in which he wrote, among other hokums:
- ...”we choose to keep the NON HABITUAL stance of allowing foreign teams to utilize the track… Use of venues is NOT customary prior to world championships”…
- “With this message I don’t intend to create a dialogue, I simply want to make clear that we will not tolerate offences like this”.
Well Mr. Fueyo, since you didn’t want to engage in any dialogue back then, and since I don’t give a toss about what you are able to tolerate or not, here’s my public and personal answer:
You’re nothing more than another useless bureaucrat, and I hope you get back soon to your comfy governmental armchair, forever away from speedskating and any other sport you might damage again with your ineptitude.

Speaking of twats...   

The Athletic stuff

Track: unfortunately, those stupid little cones in place at the corners distorted some races’ results, causing otherwise evitable mass crashes and even broken bones. Mr Alex Bont suggested to me that the shape (too flat) and bumpiness of the track is to be partially blamed on those accidents too: I partially agree, because no matter what the shape of the track is, skaters will always try to follow the best possible trajectory, which is one and only one. In spite of that, the infrastructure was good and the surface really fast, which added to the larger wheels being used, bring along quite a few world records. As for the time-trial WR, the fact that it belongs to a junior male proves my theory that we’re still far away from real specialization in that distance.
In the ladies rank, the Colombians learnt their lesson well from last year, so they were able to counteract the Koreans superb strategy (also impaired by several untimely falls).
Among guys, the French were awesome individually, Italians collectively, but Joey suffered from a stomach illness that had him not at his usual self, so racing lost a bit of lustre there.

Road: a slight inclination on the arrival straight and infinitesimal bumps on one of the bends meant slower speeds than Cali. There was a fall too many here as well, with nasty consequences. The coating was similar to the track, so instead of rolling away skaters fully stopped on the floor while falling, suffering deep rash injuries or worse. Besides, being the road less unforgiving, a larger number of non-proficient skaters were able to keep pace with the main bunch for longer, causing silly falls (that wouldn’t change the outcome anyway), but giving a chance to get medals to less technically able countries. Also, larger wheels mean higher speeds, to worsen things in case of fall… Security starts to be an issue!

● Best new entry: Mareike Thum – Giulia Buongiorno – Francesca Bettrone. In the senior ranks, Ezequiel Capellano (ARG). Look out for this young chap in the next years.

● Best Revenge: Gregory Duggento - Kalon Dobbin – Italy’s male relays

● New Kid on the Block: China. I’ve been praising for quite some time Ms Guo Dan, but I was not expecting the general progression the entire team made in such short notice. Monsieur Audoire’s efforts, no doubt.

● Best Delusion of Grandeur: goes to France. Male seniors are undoubtedly talented, but as for the rest... The French are year by year loosing ground on the international arena, something’s going on there. Second prize must go to Spain: two medals are a paltry bounty for the homeboys, in spite of their best performance ever at Worlds.

● Best Coming On Strong: Venezuela (again), Germany, Holland, Belgium.

● Keep an eye on them: Ecuador (Mr Elías del Valle coaches them), Switzerland (Mr. Begg will transmute them in skating machines, eventually) and Austria (guided by Mr. Lollobrigida).

● Golden Skate, female: Nicole Begg, Sabine Berg, Yi-Chin Pan (TPE)

● Golden Skate, male: Joey (once again), Pedrito Causil, Wei Lin Lo (TPE)

● Best New Superstars: Bart Swings – Causil + Arce – Andrés Muñoz - Riccardo Bugari - Sabine Berg – Francesca Lollobrigida – Victoria Rodriguez – Korean senior females – Guo Dan – Daniel Creig

● Best Looking Guy (voted by our female friends and associates): Mantia – Saggiorato – Naselli – Peula – Ervitti

● Miss Worlds (voted by our male friends and associates): Francesca Lollobrigida – Valeria Riffo (Chile) – Paola García (ESP) – Sheila Posada (ESP) – Vicky Rodriguez (ARG)

● Best Coach – The nominees are:
- Libardo García: proved he’s not there by pure chance or politics.
- Carlos Lugea: finally the spaniards are performing, even if medal counting is low
- Desly Hill: as above, only with no medals to count
- Cristophe Audoire: the chinese are becoming a superpower with him at the helm
- Pancho Fuentes: Venezuela is getting back on track under his wings.
- Koreans: Don’t know their names, nor did I understand what they were saying, but seeing them at work was enlightening.
- Paolo Bomben: he was able to create a world champion from zero, namely Giulia Buongiorno. How many coaches can do that?

● Best Judge
For the first time ever, I’m able to assign this award to an International judge: Mrs Barbara Fischer. Kudos to her! The fearsome German Valkyrie called skaters from miles away without a megaphone, and set order in the judges’ typically topsy- turvy room, saving them all from yet another embarrassment. In fact, this lady alone was able to carry on most of the job other 50 morons were supposed to be doing, be it on track, marathon or at the road. Mind, she was not even Main Referee: that’s still the privilege of the same worthless political minions that had the balls to face me and outrageously complain for what I write about them in my articles… Suck my lollypop, would you?

● Best Uniform: Finland – Chile - NZ – Austria – Sweden (mostly for what was inside it)

● Best Party Animals: Josh Wood – Peter Michael – Yann Guyader - Spanish Senior Team – The whole Venezuelan team

You certainly may, dear


Aw, don’t get me started. During these Worlds I’ve got my fair share of ups and downs with FIRS, CiC, the Italians, the Argentineans, Chile and Colombia… Never before I’ve been involved in so much action behind the scenes, including an unceremonious kick in the arse by Mr Marotta himself at a CIC’s meeting that was comical to me and disgusting to the attendees (best dramatic performance awarded to Roberto). Sooner or later I’ll bring forward what went on in those clashes, but at the end of the day I honestly believe something positive has arisen. Will let you know in due time. For now, let me point out that the “Olympic hopes” display staged for two visiting IOC members was a partial failure. Yes, the multiracial, colourful pictures were certainly lovely, the races exciting. But the bad judging, the empty stands and the childish attitudes of certain high ranked officials unquestionably did not impress the IOC members. As a matter of fact, while FIRS guardian dogs were distracted I had the opportunity to chat with one of them, a young Italian fella that’s in charge of IOC’s marketing area. Sorry guys, but I was not going to tell him it’s all love and roses in our sport. You already know me, don’t you? Besides, to be an Olympic sport we need Olympic chairmen in our national federations, for starters.
As a sidedish, people is starting to ask how come a certain nons-skater teen-aged gay weasel is permanently being spotted in company of our sport's elders. Who is he blowing up? Most probably, all of them.
On the bright side, I can finally confirm there were more than 50 countries attending this edition of Worlds, 53 actually. True, not in all categories, as 16 of those countries where represented by only ONE skater (in most cases, to call them skaters is too flattering), 5 countries had 2 skaters, one with 3 and two with 4 skaters altogether…Which means more than half of the nations competing in Gijon did not have real teams. Of course, officially there were 67 countries listed. Didn’t I tell you so? Don’t get me started there either, or a new front will be opened in my personal war with the big bosses…
Thanks for reading, good night and good skating!

Marcello Bresin

Olympia and inlines