Go for worlds, skaters urged

TOP TRACK: New Zealand speed skating coach John Michael believes the new Caroline Bay rink would be perfect for world championships.
TOP TRACK: New Zealand speed skating coach John Michael believes the new Caroline Bay rink would be perfect for world championships.

Timaru should look hard at hosting the World Speed Skating Championships, New Zealand coach John Michael says.

Michael watched 26 national records fall at the banked track at Caroline Bay at the weekend and declared the surface world-class.

"I am really impressed. The surface is smooth and safe.

"It would be the perfect track."

Michael said it would be a huge undertaking but he believed the South Canterbury Speed Skating Club could pull it off.

"Obviously you would need to build temporary stands to accommodate skaters and spectators and also find a road track, but it is definitely doable.

"South Canterbury is the biggest club in New Zealand and I think they have the people to pull it off."

Michael attended five world championships while his son, Peter, and daughter, Sam, were competing.

"Around 70 countries compete, so it would be a big thing for the whole of Timaru."

A Columbian team would probably bring its own television camera crews as speed skating events were shown live when the championships were held in that country, he said.

"They get 30,000 spectators over there so it is a real big deal.

"Auckland just held the artistic worlds and it was a big success, so athletes would definitely come to New Zealand."

Developing a road track would benefit not only skating but could be used by cyclists and for other recreational pursuits, he said.

The biggest stumbling block appears to be the sports governing body, the New Zealand Federation of Roller Sports.

Former New Zealand coach Bill Begg said there had been one previous attempt to attract the world championships to Timaru but the New Zealand Federation had wanted the money first.

"But it is a catch 22," Begg said.

"You need to be awarded the championships to go and generate the money."

Begg said the speed skating committee had looked at 2016 or 2017 and would have another go at persuading the powers that be.

"We said no risk to them and if 12 months out we didn't have the money we would pull out, and that's happened twice recently anyway."

Begg said the sport was somewhat dysfunctional and there was some petty jealousy about how well South Canterbury were doing.

"We need to get past all that. We could hold [the world championships] in Timaru and it would be brilliant.

"The track proved itself with all the records that tumbled.

"Fulton Hogan have delivered us the smoothest track in the world. There are no little bumps going into the corners where other tracks have had real problems."

The Timaru Herald