Photography by: Jonathan David
When most people think of roller skating, they might think of someone on roller blades, strolling calmly and having fun along the sidewalks of a park, and boardwalks near a beach. But in Colombia the reality is way different, on our soil, this isn’t just a hobby, it’s a national sport.
With the introduction of inline skates in the country during the 90s, roller skating has become widely practiced throughout most of the main cities. Speedskating has been the most popular skate discipline over both hockey and figure (artistic). Even though the sport is relatively young, the national team has grown very rapidly and thanks to their dedication and hard work, Colombia has become a much-feared country at the World Roller Speed Skating Championships. Incredibly, Colombia has won the overall title nine times in the past 12 years!
In Barranquilla, the story is very similar. Our main track, El Patinodromo, was built for the 1992 National Games, and with the construction, the city had a new home to practice the sport and prepare its athletes. Nowadays the Atlántico League has over five hundred kids and young professionals who are practicing every afternoon only at the central spot, and with the sixth best departmental squad in the country.
Ivan Agudelo, the Atlántico League’s Head Assistant Coach, told Barranquilla Life that as happens in other places, here people get interested in practicing to have an activity to do in their free time, so they join the different schools to learn how to do it. But as soon as they realize all the health, social, and physical benefits that they gain when they skate, they begin focusing on doing it in a more organized fashion, especially the kids.
Rollerskating is helping both adults and children in the city stay away from a sedentary lifestyle. In a fun and very social activity where they can meet new people, they also find that skating is equivalent to jogging regarding caloric consumption, reduction of body fat and leg strength development. At the same time, this exercise provides you with fluid motion that keeps you from damaging your joints. It lets you enjoy the same benefits of running or dancing but without the harsh impacts on your joints.
At the moment, the League is asking the government to help grow the sport in Atlántico. So far, they have academies in villages like Baranoa, Polo Nuevo, Sabanagrande, Sabanalarga, and in Barranquilla at Sagrado Corazón School, Buen Consejo School, IDPHU School, and in Olaya Park.
Although that might sound like a lot, they wish to expand the practice across the whole city. Most of these tracks (El Patinodromo itself included) are located in the northern part of town, so the people that have access to them are the wealthier part of the population. Agudelo said rollerskating is helping kids to channel their energies in a positive activity, but since they all come from higher strata they have kept them away from this section of teenager’s issues, like watching too much T.V. or playing video games. They argue that if the government were to invest in skating surfaces in the southern areas, the League could offer a healthy alternative for low-income families instead of gangs, negative behaviors, and the violence that surrounds them.
“Working in strata six (in El Patinodromo) has its advantages. When the athletes begin to practice, their parents can afford all they need and more. Unfortunately, the flipside is that when the teenagers turn seventeen or eighteen those same parents can offer them cars, party money, and other stuff that ultimately leads them to roll off the track” Agudelo stated. In fact, that’s the age in which the League experiences its highest attrition. As youth head to university and out into life with relationships and travel, they don’t have time to focus on skating and they eventually quit.
The League is very focused in helping people achieve a healthy lifestyle and they very much want to grow the program. The Atlántico League expects that within four years they will have doubled in size internally. They hope to expand their skater population to reach at least a thousand skaters on the Patinodromo and another thousand at the external academies. For that they are counting on the construction on a new skating park, to be built near Metropolitano Stadium for the upcoming Central American and Caribbean games. This complex will be a magnet for the other pole of the city, attracting those who can’t make it to 93rd street.