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Inline Speed Skaters Switch to Ice for Olympics

Inline Racers Slide in Through the Ice Racing Door


Inline Speed Skaters Switch to Ice for Olympics

Apolo Ohno

Matthew Stockman / Getty Images
Inline Speed Skaters Switch to Ice for Olympics

Jilleanne Rookard

Jasper Juinen / Getty Images
Inline Speed Skaters Switch to Ice for Olympics

Chad Hedrick

Jasper Juinen / Getty Images

Inline speed skating is an extremely competitive international sport that includes events in many formats and venues, and it is commonly called inline racing by its participants. This roller sport is very similar to ice speed skating, and it is not unusual for the competitors to switch back and forth between inline and ice speed skating for off season training.

These roller sports speed enthusiasts have been trying to get inline racing into the Olympics for decades. Efforts by the roller sports world governing body, the Federation Internationale de Roller Sports (FIRS), to earn Olympic status for inline speed skating or any of its related disciplines were very limited at the end of the 20th century. FIRS did not push the promotional envelope when quad hockey was a demonstration sport in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

FIRS' attempts to get Olympic status became the most active around 2000, when inline speed skating was promoted as the most suitable roller sport for the Olympics. Strong competition from at least 20 other sports also seeking entry into the Olympics –– at a time when they were trying to reduce the number of participating sports - kept chances of entry very slim. Since inline racing did not get Olympic status at that time or in a more recent attempt to get into the 2016 Olympic Games, many inline speed skaters have successfully switched to ice speed skating to get a chance at Olympic participation. And many of these former inline speed skaters are among the most popular Olympic athletes.

  • In 1993, KC Boutiette was the first inline speed skater to make a transition to ice and skate in the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
  • In 2002, three Team USA inline speed skaters –– Derek Parra, Jennifer Rodriguez and Joey Cheek –  won five medals in long track speed skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
  • Chad Hedrick, another American inline speed champion, moved over to ice in 2002 and won the World All Around Speed Skating Championships in 2004.
  • Joey Cheek won two medals (a gold and silver) in Torino at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games.
  • Chad Hedrick won three medals (a gold, silver and bronze) in Torino.
  • Apolo Anton Ohno, who won three medals in Torino (a gold and two bronzes), also began his skating career on inline skates.

Team USA's former inline skaters won eight ice skating medals in all, including three golds in Torino. In fact, about 65 percent of the United States Olympic medals in ice speed skating during the last three Olympics were earned by former inline skaters who made the transition from inline to ice.

In the years following the Olympic performances of Joey, Jennifer, Chad and others, it has been increasingly common for inline speed skaters with Olympic aspirations to consider trading their big wheels for sleek blades. After many seasons of inline racing accomplishments, many other inline racers like Jessica Lynn Smith, Meaghan Buisson and Katherine Reutter were forced to look at new opportunities in the ice speed skating disciplines and cross train on ice to open up Olympic opportunities that may not ever develop for them in the inline speed skating world, since inline racing is not an Olympic sport.

USA Roller Sports has offered inline to ice transition camps and referred athletes to the Wheels to Ice Program (WHIP) to help inline skaters learn skating techniques specific to competitive long and short track ice speed skating, to explain the similarities and differences between elite level inline racing and ice speed skating and to provide specialized off ice exercise programs that may include dry land, slide board and weight training.

Learn more about the ice skating sports and sports governing bodies that many of our brightest and best are moving into:

More Speed Skating Information:

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