When Drury international student Nick Fricke left his village of Vögelsen, Germany, he knew that he would be leaving much behind. One facet of his life he was certain he would have to do without was organized inline speed skating. To his surprise, however, he was able to find Infinity Racing, a competitive inline skating team here in Springfield, Mo.
The average American might know inline skating better as roller blading. Inline skates are used in many different types of sports and competitions, but Fricke engages in two types of inline speed and distance skating. It is helpful to think of the format and organization of the sport simply as normal track running but with wheels on. Indeed, Fricke feels that the wheels are an extension of himself.
“What I really enjoy [about speed skating] is the freedom. You’re going as fast as a racing bike but instead of using a tool to go so fast, it’s more like using your own feet. It feels like you’re running but much faster,” said Fricke.
The closest this niche sport gets to Olympic glory is through its relative-sport ice speed skating in the winter games. The skills for both are said to be relatively transferable, thus many inline speed skaters participate.
While Fricke is getting better at indoor inline speed skating, his focus is more on distance. He does inline speed skating marathons. These are normally done outside where officials block off whole streets for the race like how the Tour de France is set up.
However, the coup de grâce, or maybe more appropriately the Gnadenschuss, of inline speed skating is not in France, but its neighbor Germany. The Berlin inline speed skating marathon is the biggest in the world. Fricke has participated in it. To get to that point in his inline speed skating career was a long journey. It all started when he was 15. He and some friends decided to buy some skates at the local Aldi’s and mess around one day.
“I tried to skate a bit longer. I tried to see how far I could go. At one point, I lost my friends because they couldn’t keep up,” Fricke revealed. “I kept [skating long distance] until I was 19. Which is when I did my first 100 kilometers.”
One day, Fricke went to a charity marathon where he met hardcore inline skaters. This is when his eyes were opened to the world of organized competitive speed skating. He would go on to get proper training with a real coach and eventually compete in the Berlin inline speed skating marathon where he skated a marathon length in an hour and 23 minutes. His current goal is to get his time down to an hour and 12 minutes.
To help him on this quest, he is continuing his training in Springfield with the Infinity Racing club. Although they do mostly indoor inline speed skating, Fricke enjoys the form coaching.
If you are interested in speed skating, try contacting Infinity Racing through their Facebook page. Fricke thinks this is a good idea especially for those beginners who want to compete.
“First of all, always wear a helmet,” advises Fricke. “If you are a beginner start slowly. But look for a competitive team to join. When I first started, I was training on my own. It would have helped so much if I had had a proper coach. But if you just want to do freestyle inline skating, just go get some skates and go and have fun.”
Nick is one of two international exchange students sent to Drury from Leuphana University in Lüneburg Germany. Drury students can also participate in the exchange and spend a semester in the historic northern German town. The speed skating though, is optional.
Article by Johan Englen.