Colombians skate for golden double in roller sport Games debut
Competition favourites Gabriela Rueda-Rueda and Jhony Angulo Reina say that falling at speeds of up to 50kmh makes them stronger as they aim for the action-packed sport’s inaugural Olympic medals
High-speed crashes are great preparation in the chase for roller speed skating’s first Olympic gold medals, say Colombia’s speed rollers.
“You never know when you are going to fall but obviously you fall a lot both in training and competitions,” Rueda Rueda said.
“There have been very hard falls where I’ve lost consciousness but it’s nothing. The passion I have for skating defeats (the pain). Every time, I rise and train much harder to get to an even higher level.”
Simona Mercuri, communications manager at World Skate, the sport’s governing body, said that as the athletes wear helmets and gloves, and tracks are bordered by protective fences, accidents “are not so frequent and usually the injuries are not that significant”.
Angulo Reina, who crashed and lost consciousness for 45 minutes in training earlier this year, qualified for Buenos Aires 2018 with the joint-highest score at this year’s Inline Speed Skating World Championships in Heerde/Arnhem, Netherlands, Rueda Rueda winning the women's competition.
“Colombia is coming here to skate and to win. In our thoughts we are winners, in our thoughts we are successful. In the world championships we showed that we are a world power so, to be honest, we are going for these gold medals,” Rueda Rueda said.
The inaugural Olympic roller speed skating competition comprises two events, men's combined and women's combined, with 12 skaters in each. The skaters with the highest combined ranking in the 500m sprint, 1000m sprint and 5000m elimination win the historic gold medals.
The shorter distances have forced long-distance specialists such as France’s Ewen Foussadier to focus their training on explosiveness.
The 17-year-old shared the top spot at the qualifications in Heerde/Arnhem with Angulo Reina and, with teammate Honorine Barrault, the French duo pose two of the biggest threats to a Colombian double. Foussadier compares a roller speed skating race to a roller coaster, and says he is addicted to it.
“I need it," he said. "For me it’s like a drug, a sensational feeling. You feel like a young boy and you just go faster and faster. It’s an insane sensation.”
The roller action starts on Sunday (7 October) at Paseo de la Costa.