AGAINST ALL ODDS
Lets commence with some famous quotes
“Do not ever select her for a West Australian State team, she is disruptive and uncontrollable.” Well I did and suffered the consequences but also reaped the glory. Remember in life every coin has two sides, this was a young 13 or 14 year old girl at the time who had come from a split family. Desly had to bike up the dreaded Kalamunda hill each day after training. She was very fortunate that the late Eric Millett and his wife Elma took a special interest in the Morely Skating Club girl.
“I want to win three World Titles and retire.” That was my first big encounter with Desly when I held a motivation and goal setting course for the West Australian skaters. I had asked the budding champions to tell me their goals. Well she won three individual titles and won a bonus fourth along with Ann Woods and Tamara Martin in the relay in Cassano d’Adda, 1988.
“Get out of my way, I’m going down to town.” That was at the Australian Championships in Melbourne as myself the coach and Elma the manager blocked her way at 1am in the morning in one of Melbourne’s worst suburbs. This was the young 14 year old headstrong girl I had been told never to select.
Desly became the First ever World inline Champion in Rome, 1992 when she won the ladies 300m time trial. After Nora Vega tried on her quads and failed Des was the winner and she charged over to the fence and yelled “you’re not excited, don’t you know I have won.” I blurted back to her that I would have been bloody excitable if she had not won. I said “I had seen you win hundreds of times in my mind and I expected you to win.” I couldn’t let Des think she was the last Coca Cola, as she might slacken off and there were more medals to win. My stance was validated when Desly won four medals, more than any other female present and the Australian ladies topped the ladies medal tally. This was all part of my wife Cheryl’s famous dream on the 22nd May 1992 which was written in Desly’s Dairy.
Cheryl’s Dream the 22nd May 1992 “Hi Des I had a good dream last night. You won the 300m time trial, then lead me out in the 1,500 metres. I won and you lunged for second.” Three months later in Rome the dream was almost completed except Cheryl lunged for first and Desly was third. Such was the synergy that just before Desly started Cheryl tapped her on the shoulder and told her she had it won.
Now for the story behind the story surrounding Desly
In 1992 we were going to bring Dereck Parra and Tony Muse out to Perth to teach us about inlines and we had a government grant for this. We knew next to nothing and resembled barney Bill when we tried to skate on them. Come about the end of March I could see we were behind the eight ball and there were six titles up for grabs that you could use inlines for. Frustrated I went to John Graham the head of the West Australian Department of Sport and Recreation to get the funding guidelines changed. I told him we couldn’t wait and I needed to be in the US tomorrow finding out about these skates. I rang the late Charlie Whalig in America and found out there was a big inline marathon on in California that weekend. So the meeting was on Wednesday and I was on the plane heading to California that Friday. We also had a government grant for a video camera so I collected one at duty-free on the way out.
Los Angeles here I come
I arrived in LA and my good friend Curtis (Bad Boy) Labeda met me at the airport. Curt had spent six weeks with our family in Australia learning to road skate in 1983. The all time great Tommy Hype Peterson had set Curts road skates up. In my opinion by the look of them he had not only set the skates up but set Curt up as well, so he could never beat him. I got him to ditch the junk and he trained and raced on my skates as 12 year old girls were beating him on his when he arrived. Curt had done a bit of amateur wrestling in college and well know not to be messed with. One of his older sisters partners hit her around once, the next time Curt saw him he left him with a broken leg. So you can understand the bad boy tag.
First inline race experience
Well there were skaters and commentators yahooing everywhere. I thought it was on a circuit course but it was out and back only. I managed to convince someone to cram me into the back of the lead vehicle, which was a Rollerblade van full of hire skates. Holding on with one hand and the other holding the new skating association’s video camera I managed to get some footage to take home. I must have been the worst cameraman ever with the focus either on the skaters legs or their heads and how I never got tossed out the back I will never know. Dereck Parra got in a breakaway and he looked the goods, so I focused on him. He won that year in Rome so fortunately the model was the best example.
Never, ever be afraid to be humble once in a while
After the race we returned to the Labeda family home and in the lounge they had a big team meeting. Curt and his brother Scott, Dante and Tony Muse and Dereck Parra were all present and maybe Jay Ethridge (not 100% sure on Jay). What a team! After the meeting I pulled the joker out and said “I used to be one of the Worlds top coaches, now I’m a coach who knows nothing. How can you help me?”
One by one all these great skaters stood in front of my video camera and told me their thoughts and feelings. They basically bleed their hearts out to me. In previous years (quad days) at one time or another they had come to me for advice, so they were only to happy to help out. I also saw the first heat moulding attempt which ended with Scott Labeda racing down the road trying to cool down his burning feet.
I went back to Perth armed with a little technical knowledge. The skaters went back onto inlines with five months to go till the World Championships. Holland and USA had a big jump on us all so we were playing catch up.
Well Desly was very stubborn at times to the point of obstinate. But she had a burning desire to win, so I could always motivate and drive her through this desire. We went through many trials and tribulations to win this first ever inline World Title.
She complained about having to train on a toilet bowel, which was our 166.66 metre Perth indoor bank track. That she was a sprinter and should never have to do 10km. Complained I was burning her out doing 300 metre time trials on the Midland road circuit because I demanded that to win at the Worlds she had to break 30 seconds before we left. Des told me it couldn’t be done, telling me something can’t be done only activates and inspires me.
The one-off magic watch produced the desired result
I was getting sick of the arguments. Being told that 30.1 seconds was it and that she would suffer burnout if I made her do one more time trial. As a Coach it’s very important you never, ever give up on your pupils unless you have exhausted all avenues. But most of all as the coach you never ever give up on yourself.
Sonya Kuipers who was the South Australian sprinter was training with Desly. She was only about 2/10th’s of a second slower than Desly, so this day I seized my opportunity. As Sonya lined up to do a time trial Desly was a long way down the track with her back to me. Sonya took off with Desly unable to take a time on her. Well my watch got clicked a couple of metres short at 29.97 seconds. When Desly was in earshot I jumped around all excited and yelled out “Sonya 29.97 the first girl to go under 30 seconds on the circuit.”
Well if there was one thing Desly had pride in it was being the top dog in the sprints. As she lined up there was blood in her eyes. Desly scorched around in 29.5 seconds. She took half a second off the time she had said herself couldn’t be beaten. Much like the 4 minute mile, it’s often as much of a barrier for the mind as it is for the body. Once beaten it’s there to be eaten up. Within two weeks the 29 second barrier was no longer there and a couple of weeks later the rainbow jersey and gold medal were on their way back to Perth.
Idolizing cyclists, 200km workout
Desly complained about skating 10 km and said she didn’t need to do it because she was a sprinter, in my book she needed to be fitter and loose some body fat. Five of them set out for a usual 80 to 100 km Sunday ride. Eddie Hoar, Brian Cross and Cheryl Begg hardly had an ounce of body fat. Un beknown to Desly she was about to test the theory that body fat is the secondary source of energy fuel. Sonya wasn’t such a good rider and 50 km was her limit so her and the bike ended up in the Honda Civic. While Desly didn’t like doing a 10 km skate she always talked about and idolized the Tour de France riders and the long distances they covered. So I decided that on this quiet Sunday my training group were going to join the 200 km club.
I just directed them up a couple of different roads and after we had completed more than 100 km we arrived at Northern. As one never shy to come forward, Desly asked “how are we going to get home?” I replied “same bloody way you got here, on the bike.” Well four disgruntled riders took off and me following in the car. After about 150 km the other three with no body fat were craving Coca Cola and Chocolate, wanting to get some energy into their system. But alas after lunch no country shops were open. Desly was thriving on her new-found position of being the strongest rider in the group as the body fat kicked in.
When we stopped I told her not to ever, ever tell me again she couldn’t skate 10km. I said she had just done what her beloved cycling idols had done, a 200 km ride and she was only a women. So I never heard anymore about what she couldn’t do, barriers are often only in the mind. It was a hard way to prove it, but sometimes to make a point a coach must pull a rabbit out the hat and this day there were two of them.
After winning another 300 metre World Title in her home city of Perth in 1995 Desly skated professionally for some years. She also ran the Bont professional team before attending University in Perth and graduating with a Sports Science Degree. She went on to coach Australia and many Junior World champions. Among those the late Shaun Thompson, Sophie Muir, Corey Price, Daniel Greig and some senior titles.
Offshore coaching, following in her coaches footsteps
Desly went on to coach Holland and lead their country at the Senior World Champs. Then became the Australian Olympic ice skating coach for long track at the 2010 winter Olympics. She continues to inspire others and is putting back into the sport, more than she ever got out of it.
While doing a higher level of her degree she had to do an in-depth study of four of the Worlds top sporting coaches, I happened to be one of them. Basically all of us had some similar traits except in one specific area I differed from the others. If someone said no it could not be done the others accepted that, but it was only a signal to activate me and I was halfway towards finding a way it could be done.
Big Boss Hog we salute you and your findings about your old coach. They are very applicable to your current performances, having managed to successfully integrate ice and inline programs. In the land of “ice” amongst the die-hard long track coaches and critics who said it could not be done.