UNFORTUNATELY AN ARTICLE OF WHAT USED TO BE CAN HINNERK THE NEW WIC CEO REVIVE IT TO ITS GLORY DAYS
SWITZERLAND THE SKATING LAND MYTHS & DREAMS
Every top young skater from the feared speed skating lands of South America & New Zealand dreamed of the great competition in the far away shores of Europe & particularly Switzerland. They wanted to take on the tough competition in the Swiss & World Inline Cup events & tackle the WIC master the great Max Presti.. Some such as the Dobbin’s ,Botero & Nino started early, then we had a great Influx of New Zealanders & South Americans, which at times added too much spice to the competition.
In the early days Sami from Rollerblade was one of the key figures in the movement, everyone wanted to be in the so called Rollerblade family team, unfortunately the high standard of loyalty & once Rollerblade & always Rollerblade Chain, lost links in recent years.
Lets get down to the most at times controversial & sensational figure of all time, we termed him as that Crazy little man from the mountains. As he arrived at the Belguim World champs & told us all about the vision of this great World Inline Cup, well coming from Switzerland at that time, was like trying to sell skates to Italians, what the hell in the name of hadies would he know, was the thoughts of many.
Well I was in the front row ready to jump on this little upstart Peacock, but he did set me thinking, that his vision & dream were no different than mine. In the end it brought me to Switzerland & we became great friends, but could never agree on a number of points, but we learnt to agree to disagree with each other.
Coni Altther & lets not forget his wife Sylvianne worked along with a number of other people to create the flagship Swiss Inline Cup & the World Inline cup, as the shinning beacon in the speed skating world. It was a great pity that things became a bit messy with the changeover in Ownership & Coni was not able to leave the WIC with his reputation as the great Innovator & Magical man he was & still is.
Yes it is true he had this penchant for mountain top dinning & Rocking Freddie’s was his favorite dinning place to let the dreams & thinking flow, as we would walk up the mountain, one famous trip Dani Wagner, Coni & myself complete with cowbell on a pitch black night stumbled our way down through the cloud, while Hansueli Suss kept in touch from home base with the mobile, while receiving darkness reports.
Yes it is not a myth this fearless man who had a love for the mountains nearly left two of his quests frozen on the mountain, Hong Kong Businessman Andrew So on one trip & Bill Begg going through half meter snow up a hill with normal joggers & no gloves, yours truly arrived at the restaurant frozen & worn out, slouched down & could not move for 2 hours.
So hopefully Coni can be remembered for the good things he done & all the full time jobs he created for speedskaters, some of whom in the peak years, earned very nice Salaries indeed, that
most of today’s speed skaters could only dream about.
While we talk about Myths another great figure in the scene for many years, the World Inline center’s Danny Grab, he will shot me for this, some will tell you it’s a myth, others the truth, from living up to his name in the races, he then turn’t his name to doing the same in business.
He was a good competitor on skates, but his profile is even larger off skates & to me he is the greatest skate sales person in the world, the only person I have ever seen working with 10 customers at once & keeping all off them happy.
Well lets venture into the Skaters Zone, I personally felt the Swiss Inline cup, was lacking in the area of Hill & Sprint Primes, to cater for the Swiss skaters, this was my major concern with this great competition, other competitions in France were more suited to the tough Swiss skaters, in fact it took seven years before a Swiss man placed in the top 10 in the flat Zurich WIC race & the Swiss found a sprint finisher in Raphael Phlug.
Outside of Switzerland Super Marc Christian & Lugi Christophe Luginbuhl, both captured WIC races in breakaways on the tough Nice circuit in France. Then along come other renowned tough guys in Big Roger Schneider & Alain Gloor before the lure to the Ice & hopes of Olympic Glory took them away from focusing on the Inline.
Nicolas Iten a breakaway expert has captured a number of very big races in recent years, but has a penchant for breaking the odd bone or two while not in the races, presently along with Severin Widmer they are flying the Swiss Flag at the highest level, what about the future men, well Yannick Schalk has a SIC race under his belt & livio Wenger has been keeping the Swiss flag fluttering & an underated Eves Reist is starting to show some very good form this year, as a Junior you do not get in the top 10 at both European & World championships by accident. Then Yannik Freidli loves racing & keeps producing the results, so there is plenty of talent with the men.
But lets not forget what skating is all about in Switzerland, its guys from the mountain like Martin Hanggi, who love to roll & race & one of the first ever Swiss Pro skaters, he puts back into the sport, by turning up for national championships, to race the top guys & actively out there promoting the sport & coaching young skaters.
In the ladies the most successful WIC skater was probably the irrepressible Pia Knecht, who was capturing some wins & lots of top placings & definitely related to the Ducks when it came to the wet, in the early days Celine Weiss & Nadine Benz were another tough uncompromising Swiss skaters.
While in recent times Nadine Gloor has flown the Swiss flag & Livia Meier has had opportunities in top teams. Both the Kuhn sisters India & Rena, looked like World beaters as youngsters & India with a World Junior Silver medal, but never went on with it at International level.
I always felt due to sponsors wanting the glory in the grades, that they both stayed down a year too long in the easy stuff, with all the fanfare & back slapping one season, you can go from Hero to Zero in the next season, India unfortunately gave up this season.
Both Romona Aulf Dur Maur & Deborah Keel have shown they have a good turn of speed & performed at Junior International Level at times, but putting it all together at the top end of the spectrum is another matter altogether.
MY LOVE well the Inline 111 St.Gallen, it has it all, the drama, the emotion, the disappointments & the dreams washed away on the Hills into St. Gallen, at the end of the race. Being a Judge the last 2 years stuck on the back of a Honda Gold Wings motor bike & seeing the Gladiators fight each other for supremacy, right from the front line, is as good as it gets for race viewing, as this Famous race wanders through parts of the beautifull Switzerland.
Being soft at heart, I shed tears when that great Endurance skater Tristan Loy, crashed out on some loose sand on a corner heading into ST, Gallen, while in the winning break of 4, you hate to see a great competitor in the race, lose it while on the ground, his schreaches on anguish, rang in my ears till long after the race.
The Sami Luginbuhl inspired Weinfelden Bank Track, the underutilization by the top Swiss Skaters & the loss of the World Championships to the Venue.
With at times up to 28 World gold medals on the training track at once & only one or two Swiss skaters taking advantage of it.
Livio Wenger travelling 2 hours & Emily Jude 3 hours there & back from France every week, they could get there, to be amongst the Worlds best, but others that needed that type interaction & could have fronted up did not.
Simple if you want to become one of the Worlds best & you get a chance to train with them, that’s what you take advantage off..
Lets hope they can prevent the rain from the Shop end & the Skating School Christoph runs & the Winter programs can continue to grow bigger & Better, presently people learning to skate for the Gigathalon, is putting new people on skates, we need to convert them to Inline Culture.
With all the beautiful roads & tracks in Switzerland & the police skater friendly policy, its easy to put your skates on in the kitchen & roll out the Front door & enjoy the scenary & its obviously in the Swiss mind, not to be restained, as they are a country that loves there outdoors & mountains, at the end of the day, who can blame them for that.
I have enjoyed the last 6 years based in Europe & centered around Switzerland with my family, but unfortunately I have to live & the AIC was the only option I had for a liveable income, so for the next 3 years Cheryl & Myself will be Asian based, but with many wonderfull memories of Switzerland & many good friends.