My daughter’s school newsletter had an ad for ‘learn to skate’ classes so we turned up, hired some skates and started working our way through their badges at weekly sessions. We watched a demonstration of some young girls doing a routine to music from Pirates of the Caribbean and we were hooked. We both joined teams and skated our first year at the Artistic Roller Skating Nationals in Wanganui.
Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can choose what events you want to participate in;
- Dance – ballroom without a partner, set steps and you learn two new dances every year
- Creative Solo Dance (CSD) – individually choreographed within a genre, like ‘roaring ‘20’s’
- Figures – manoeuvres where you trace 6m circle outlines between the wheels of your skate
- Freeskating – like ice skating with the jumps and spins, but transferred to roller skates
- Precision – a team event, like marching but you’re on wheels
At my first nationals, I was so nervous that when I did my ballroom dances, I skated faster and harder than I usually did and got so close to the wall, I swear I left some lipstick on it as I rolled past. We’re now in our fourth year and slowly getting a handle on the nerves.
I had an opportunity to go to the Australian Nationals in July thanks to a sponsor. It was time for my ‘big girl pants’. I haven’t done a lot of travelling, never hired a rental car or stayed in a stranger’s house (Air BnB). None of my coaches were able to come as the New Zealand Nationals were only a week later and they had commitments to other skaters. So I would be going over there all by myself – definitely a Bridget Jones situation!
I made it safely and marched in the opening ceremony with one other Kiwi feeling proud, but as the minority, very watched. Some time in a training session helped me refocus and orient myself. I had to remind myself why I was there… I wanted more experience, to step out and be brave, I wanted to try and fly.
As the referee walked over and addressed the group of a dozen-plus competitors, one of the coaches questioned a ‘new rule’. “Is it correct that you are only allowed 8 backwards steps including the turn, in between turns?” My heart jumped from my rib cage and into my throat. I threw a confused look at my substitute coach and mouthed ‘Really?’ She looked back at me, recognised my panic and slowly nodded her head up and down. The butterflies felt like they were trying to escape.
I was in the second group of skaters so I had roughly 10 minutes to re-choreograph the steps. Trying to keep the nerves at bay I focussed on the task ahead and quickly changed some steps. All too quickly my name was being announced. Routine done with the last minute changes. I finished off the routine with a cartwheel into splits… TA-DA!
Five judges give you a mark out of 10 for technical and 10 for artistic. It was all a blur, but I remember feeling happy. Turns out it resulted in a silver medal! I was gob-smacked. It suddenly turned my big-girl-pants into a superman cape, I had taken on the world and won!
I went onto compete in Figures earning a bronze medal, then again with Dance placing seventh. I watched many of the other events and gained a lot of knowledge talking to everyone, making new friends and allies.
Once back home I had one week of training and reviewing with my coaches before I headed off to Rotorua for New Zealand Nationals. I competed in the same events plus skated with my team. I added two more gold, one silver and one bronze to my collection.
A fortune cookie told me “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” And now, in hindsight, I have to agree. The experience has made me braver, stronger and ready to step up again. I’ve been selected to represent New Zealand at Oceania’s in September.
You can follow Lisa’s skating journey on her facebook page ‘Miss Skate’, @MumOnWheels.