This is not an edited essay, but rather a fired-from-the-fingertips rant on the issues of sportsmanship and officiation that were further fleshed out in Thank You, Puck - and "Foul!" - Making the Right Call. Inspiration came in the form of a spate of complaints of transgressions by skate-competitors and incompetent or non-existent officiating at a major training event for Athens-to-Atlanta skaters... for whatever it is worth.
Until open road speedskating submits to a competent governing body and until expert officials are willing to enforce rules already on the books, all forms of skating will remain pale shadows of their rightful athletic potential - nor receive the peer-respect they do not yet deserve. From the US10K to the NY100K to Athens-to-Atlanta, there have always appeared to be two cultures in the speedskating world: athletes who play by the rules, and athletes who expect to be able to skate as though they are in Roller Derby and assume they will never be penalized - because no officials have the gumption to call them on their behavior.
I believe a similar situation exists in professional hockey. Players in baseball, basketball or football would be thrown out of games or banned from the sport for behavior that that is accepted, even routine, in pro-hockey. It is the culture: speed skaters and hockey players are led to assume from childhood that unsportsmanlike behavior is acceptable and customary, particularly in hockey. In speedskating, no spectators in the coliseum await the carnage of hockey; rather, an apathetic sports community tacitly allow constant violations of good sporting behavior. Like petulant three year olds, athletes that are never told "no", learn no boundaries.
Only when the speedskating community decides that all athletes must be held accountable for their actions will we force the changes that bring skating-sports to the same standards as the athletic competitions that have already emerged from the dark ages.
I feel sorry for the ethics-centered athletes that have to deal with this, the skaters with the integrity to restrain themselves to winning with honor.
~ Scott Nilsson
Atlanta, Georgia - USA / 2nilssons.com
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