New edition of the Inline GamesA huge variety of roller-skating activities were planned:
- skate tours around Hannover
- workshops (slalom-skating, gadgets on casters...)
- shows (inline basket ball, freestyle team battle)
- competitions: the European Championship in street skating on Saturday, an Inline Biathlon and Street Races (part of the Nordliga and Nordcup Serie) on Sunday, and freestyle slalom battles during the whole weekend.
The BattleThe Battle competition which took place during the Inline Games 2008 was a main event (2 cones) of the World Slalom Series (WSS) circuit.
Freestyle battle met with a huge success: sixty skaters registered, of nine different European countries. Germany was present in force - quantitatively as qualitatively, with riders such as Rudy Op't Velt (#5 in June 2008 WSS world ranking), Mischa Gurevich (#12), Martin Sloboda (#22), Pierre Kunneman (#47), Christian Fessel (#122)... to name just a few of them ; The other countries were also represented by their champions : the Italians Tiziano Ferrari (#50) and Lucas Ulivieri (#125), the Russians Polina Semenova (#3 women) and Maksim Shvyrev (#54), the French Igor Cheremetieff (#1), Xuan Le (#7), Fanny Violeau (#16) and Chloé Seyrès (#1), the Spanish people whose improvement is rather promissing (particularly Adrián Almazán (#298)), the English Jon Bell et JB Milleret (franglish). Let's mention also the Dutch, the Belgians, and the Polish people. The list is too exhaustive, thus I will sum up as following: the upper crust of Europe was there, the fight was tough, and the elimination merciless.
Le lieu de compétitionThe slalom area (bigger than last year's) was on a paved walkway (~20*20 slabs) quite slippery (dust ?) with a rather big slope, I must say. There were terraces on both sides of the area, and a platform at the end of it for the DJ to mix. For two days, we've been skating to good old rhythm'n soul sounds! ...and in the role of the vintage speaker, Pierre Kunneman who hanged on to the mic 'till the end in spite of his broken voice (“we had a long night” he apologized on Sunday morning...).
The site of the festival opened on Friday afternoon. The hotel being on the other side of the street, the skaters, who were arriving one by one, were inevitably passing by the spot to go and check in the hotel... as a result, the afternoon became a giant slalom session which stopped only late in the evening.
A modified programThe freestyle event was planned on two days (Saturday and Sunday). But, taking heed of the weather forecast (not really encouraging for Sunday), the organisation considered it more careful to change the timetable and to complete the more slalom events as possible on Saturday. The planning, basically light (speed slalom and qualifications for freestyle battle on Saturday, and freestyle battles on Sunday), becomes much more intensive, concentrated on Saturday: speed slalom qualifications in the morning, then from 1 PM till the sun goes down (10 PM) amateur freestyle battle, men pro freestyle qualifications and battle, and women pro freestyle battle.
What a surprise when opening the curtains on Sunday morning... it was shiny and bright! After a general sleep in, we resumed the competition in the sun with the speed KO systems. As there was still time to spare, we improvised a freestyle team battle: the passers-by of Sunday afternoon were treated to a show-contest gathering most of the enlisted skaters.
The whole afternoon was shiny, 'till the podiums that ended in the rain!
After this overlook of the unfolding of the weekend, let's get into the details of the different slalom events...
The Speed Slalom BattleAs mentioned above, the speed slalom took place in two times: time qualifications on Saturday morning and KO systems on Sunday afternoon. For both of their time qualification runs, the skaters go one by one - according to the rules applied for the WSS, in order to respect the equity of conditions to the maximum. There were 35 men enlisted for speed slalom, and 8 women.
The times were rather slow: for men, Luca Ulivieri ranks first of the qualifications in 5.45 with one penalty; he is followed by Igor Cheremetieff, Sebastien Laffargue, JB Milleret, and Tiziano Ferrari - the rest runs over 6 seconds. As for women, Chloé Seyrès (6.1) and Fanny Violeau (6.27) are the only ones to run bellow 7 seconds.
These wheezy times are justified partly because of the strictness of the line judges who were extremely thorough in their faulse-start checking. Thus everybody had to be careful and they slowed down their reaction time to the start.
The KO systems were postponed to Sunday, the priority being given to freestyle (in case of bad weather on Sunday). For the Men Speed Slalom, only the 16 best times qualified (and all the 8 women went through the qualifications).
Women first! The skaters going through the quarter finals are: the French Chloé Seyrès and Fanny Violeau, the Russian Polina Semenova, and the Polish Renata Bugalska. In semi finals, Chloé and Fanny eliminate respectively Polina and Renata. The two French girls of the SebaTeam are meeting in a restless final. The first round goes indisputably to Chloé. During the second round, Chloé stalls, manages - too late - to re-enter the slalom line and finishes by a long slide on her hip (and the rest) at the end of the line... (I heard it was spectacular... I didn't witness it because Chloé, it's me... but I fully felt it from the inside!). Each skater-girl gets a round, a third one is needed. On the third round, Chloé is slightly in front of Fanny but kicks a cone (and punctuates her run with a second fall), and Fanny wins the third round... and the final! As for the consolation final, it is Polina who wins and ranks 3rd.
Podium Speed Slalom Battle Women
1. Fanny Violeau (FRA)
2. Chloé Seyrès (FRA)
3. Polina Semenova (RUS)
Slalom Battle menFor men, no real surprise as for the first round: nearly all the favourites go through to the quarter finals. No problem either for the quarter finals groups, except for the second one opposing Tiziano Ferrari (ITA) and JB Milleret (Franglish). Tizianno wins with a lead of a hundredth on his winning round!
In semi finals, the outcome becomes less certain: the first semi final brings together the two Italians Luca Ulivieri and Tiziano Ferrari, and the second semi final the two French Sebastien Laffargue and Igor Cheremetieff. The times get closer. Luca goes through, and Seba eliminates himself with a strike on the determining third round against Igor, who gets to the final against Luca. It is Luca who finally wins the speed competition. Igor, despite good starts (his times are better than Luca's), makes too many cone mistakes, and cannot compete with Luca's regularity. As for the consolation final: on the first round Seba makes up for his semi final strikes in achieving the best time of the competition, but Tiziano resists and wins the two following rounds.
Podium Speed Battle Men
1. Luca Ulivieri (ITA)
2. Igor Cheremetieff (FRA)
3. Tiziano Ferrari (ITA)
The Amateur Freestyle BattleIt is the Amateurs who open the freestyle series, on Sunday afternoon. The 12 Amateurs had almost the same treatment as the Pro skaters: same ranking by groups of three, two runs of 30 seconds per skater - and three for the final. As for the last trick extra, it was for the final only (as in the Pro Battle). The Champion, Ortwin Carstocea, and his Vice, Jens Brökelmann, won their qualification for the Pro Freestyle Battle.
Podium Amateur Freestyle Battle
1. Ortwin Carstocea
2. Jens Brökelmann
3. Christian Stelzer
The Men Pro Freestyle BattleThis time, Men first (no jealousy)! They were 32 (included the Amateur first two finalists). As mentioned above, the upper crust of Europe was present, and the massacre of cruel eliminations began as soon as the beginning of the qualifications (round before the quarter finals: eight groups of four skaters). Paradoxically enough, it is the very first group which lead the skaters a merry dance: group 1 was made up of Igor Cheremetieff (FRA), Tiziano Ferrari (FRA), Maxim Shvyrev (RUS), and Jens Brökelmann (GER - 2nd of the Amateur Battle). It is Tiziano Ferrari (ITA), 3rd at the PSWC '08 and 4th at the Italian Slalom Battle '08, who will not go through the qualifications: they were three candidates (Igor, Max and Tiziano) for only two places and the jury made their choice.
Nothing to mention as for the other groups of qualifications for the quarter finals. Some skaters are already a cut above the rest: in group 2, Kim Taehong the Korean Londoner; in group 3, Christian Fessel (GER), winner of the FSWE Weekend '08 at M-Gladbach, gets qualified for the quarter finals, along with Ronny Robert (NED), the Deutch Champion of 2003 coming back (?); in groups 4, 5 and 6, Mischa Gurevich (Germano-russian), Xuan Le (FRA), 3rd at the Inline Games '07, and Luca Ulivieri (ITA), 1st at the Italian Battle '08, get to the quarter finals; and finally in groups 7 and 8, let's point out the 13-year-old Martin Sloboda (GER), a very promising young skater who already attracted attentions on other battles this year, Rudy Op't Veld (GER), 2nd at the PSWC '08 and 4th at Battle Moscow '08, who came in force with surprises on top of his usual technical arsenal, and last but not least Pierre 'the Apache' Kunneman (GER), the double-caps man simultaneously playing the parts of the fire-setting speaker and of the vintage styleslalom-skater.
The selection continuesDuring the quarter finals, the cleansing goes on. End of the adventure for Ronny Robert, who, despite his undoubted style, has fallen behind with technique. It is the end also for Maksim Shvyrev, who had fighted against Tiziano Ferrari for the qualifications, sanctioned for having repeated too many times the same tricks (internal chicken leg spins which he masters with 2 or 3 turns, and a good wheeling technique) - tricks he does not execute as well as in the qualifications. Pierre Kunneman also takes his leave, beaten by Luca Ulivieri, who decides to opt for fast knitting execution rather than for technique, and by Xuan Le, King of Style with perfect toe spins despite the slope, who begins to have good fun also with wheeling tricks... anyway the latter was allowed to qualify but only just: the jury had asked for a last trick to decide betwin Xuan and Adrián Almazán (SPA), the improving Spanish skater. Finally Xuan's back heel wheeling on 7 cones puts him in front of Adrián's 10 Korean spins, most of them out of the line.
Semi-finalsThe semi-finals are a real battlefield, the skaters trying to kill each other with ultra-technical tricks to win their ticket to the finals.
The first semi-final opposes Cheremetieff, Christian Fessel, Xuan Le, and Martin Sloboda. Igor has been dominating his half of the chart since the beginning of the battle and qualifies easily: he steadily reiterates mastered forward to backward wheelings from one round to another, controlled backward wheelings, always with this power of execution and this dexterity in the transition of tricks that characterise Igor; Strangely enough, he does not manage to do any good seven (Slope? Stress? Both?).
Chris is undoubtedly extremely well at ease on one wheel, but though he has improved a lot in the mastery of his tricks (more balanced, and better control of his arms) it is not enough to get into the finals compared to Martin who is much more balanced and not less technical: balanced sevens on 4-5 cones, mastered backward wheelings and forward to backward wheelings, and his skating is very smooth.
As for Xuan, he brings a very nice touch of style, in the middle of these three relentless challengers of technique. Unfortunately, the style criterion alone is not enough to get him through.
The second semi-final gathers more various styles: Kim Taehong, Mischa Gurevich, Luca Uliviero and Rudy Op't Velt. Taehong plays somehow the same part as Xuan in this second semi-final: smooth and stylish but technically weaker than the three other skaters. Mischa will always surprise me with his capacity to swallow the 20 cones of the line at a hallucinating speed... beside his execution speed, Mischa has other assets: an excellent mastery of chicken legs (three turns... easy!) and original but none the less technical tricks (frontwards heel Korean spins, real frontwards reverse nelsons - the foot in the back in the position on an internal wiper...)
Rather surprising discrepancy when you realize that the guy can hardly manage a few cones doing wheeling! Compared with him, there is Luca, who has similar assets: same speed of execution, and good technical tricks. Maybe is he less original than Mischa, but he seems to be more efficient as he ranks 2nd of the group, and qualifies for the finals.
As for Rudy, he is the one who has been dominating the other half of the charts since the very beginning. With his technical arsenal he stands a cut above the rest: wheeling whatever the direction (frontward to backward, or backward to frontward), sevens whatever the direction (frontward, backward, internal, external ...make your choice!). Moreover, with his brand new transitions, he is ready to seriously challenge Igor, the favourite, unbeaten 'till then on a battle competition.
FinalsBefore the finals, the consolation finals: there meet Chris, Xuan, Taehong, and Misha. It is Xuan who wins the consolation finals with credit (no doubt the King of Style had his fun), in front of Mischa, Taehong, and Chris.
The last tricks: the last chance to make the difference. Luca does kasatchocs to exhaustion, Martin does the same with heel wheeling - rather tricky because of the slope. Rudy tries a backward heel wheeling on the 50 but does not manage more than a dozen of cones in both of his tries... Igor takes up the challenge and makes an attempt of backward toe wheeling on the 80... same result as Rudy: not better than Rudy's dozen of cones.
The results follow immediately:
1. Rudy Op't Veld (GER)
2. Igor Cheremetieff (FRA)
3. Luca Ulivieri (ITA)
4. Martin Sloboda (GER)
The Women Pro Freestyle BattleOnly 4 women had registered for the Amateur Battle. In order to get a consistent women competition, both categories (amateur and pro) were mixed: this enabled to form 4 groups of 3 (12 skaters), and thus to begin with quarter finals.
The regulars qualify: in groupe 1, Chloé Seyrès (FRA) and Renata Bugalska (POL); in group 2, Fanny Violeau (FRA) and Lidia Wardzinska (POL), who made great improvements since the PSWC '08; in group 3, Miriam Kwasny (GER) and Cheryl Evans (UK); and in group 4, Polina Semenova (RUS) and Ragnhild Cornelisse (NED). Note: first competition for Marianno Rio (FRA) - she did not go through the first round, but keep a close eye on the girl, given the evolution she had in just three months of slalom-skating...
No real suspense either for the semi finals: Chloé and Fanny take the upper hand in their group, and Polina and Lidia make their presence felt in group 2.
Just like in the men final there are two internal challenges: Chloé versus Polina for the 1st place, and Fanny versus Lidia for the 3rd. It has to be admitted that the girls were a little tired after a whole day of questionings (when will be their turn to go? In the middle of the afternoon before the men? In the late afternoon after the men? The morrow?) and of warm ups (in case one of the first two options would be picked) - the planning was vague: the aim of the day was to complete the biggest part of the event as possible. The finalists did not skate exceptionally well (there were even one or two quite mediocre runs), which did not make the job easier for the jury. No hesitation for the 3rd place: Fanny is above Lidia. As for the 1st place, it is finally Polina who gets it - after a long debate: during the whole final, maybe was she less committed than Chloé, but her finishing was neater. In fact it is the last trick which brought doubt into the jury's mind, as Chloé's last trick was better evaluated than Polina's: Polina did a Korean spins combo on the 80, and Chloé managed 18 cones doing a spin footgun on the 80 - while Fanny managed 20 cones doing backward footgun on the 80, and Lidia tried to manage 10 cones doing toe reverse eagle on the 80.
Podium Women Pro Freestyle Battle
1. Polina Semenova (RUS)
2. Chloé Seyrès (FRA)
3. Fanny Violeau (FRA)
The Freestyle Team BattleAs there was still some time left on Sunday afternoon after the speed KO systems - because everything had been completed the day before - we organised a team battle contest. The riders got into groups of three according to their affinities. Fourteen teams confronted one another in duels: six runs for each team, and a jury purposely impressionable by the public to decide between the teams. The ranking did not much matter: the aim was to enable maximum skaters to participate, which made a show not only varied (lots of skaters thus lots of different styles) but also lively in which the public could interact.
No holds were bared: this gave place to double and triple skating - with more or less coordination, to small sketches and funny-skating shows, to more or less team strategy... but above all to lots of giggles (principally during the qualification phase).
The more the contest went on the more the tone grew serious, and the more the teams - who had not prepared anything - began to repeat themselves, and I think it ran out of steam. Finally the public designate Team Italian Style (Luca, Tizianno and Francesco) as the winner of the contest (coaxed by the Italian touch of humour?), in front of Team Russia (Polina, Max and Mischa).
Nevertheless, it was a very interesting experience, and I do not think we could have provided a better promotional show in favour of slalom-skating.
By way of tribute to the freestyle teams, here is the listing of their names:
- Amateurs Team
- 4Wheels Freestyle Team
- Skatemeile Team
- Team Russia
- Italian Style
- Just Fun
- The Threemen Show
- Phil and the JBs
- Vintage Team
- Style Libero
- nb : I know there is one missing... Sorry I just did not catch it.
LinksWorld Slalom Series
Photos : Vanessa Philipp