Speed skating guru Bill Begg off to 40th world championship

Bill Begg keeps a close eye on skaters training at Caroline Bay.
DOUG FIELD/STUFF

Bill Begg keeps a close eye on skaters training at Caroline Bay.

Timaru's speed skating guru Bill Begg never dreamed he would attend 40 world championships, let alone all in some official capacity.

The 70-year-old will again be the head coach for the New Zealand team, this time in Nanjing, China, later this month.

Begg's incredible tally started as a 26-year-old competitor in Argentina way back in 1975, when it was an men's only affair.

Bill Begg says it has been great life coaching skating around the world.
DOUG FIELD/STUFF

Bill Begg says it has been great life coaching skating around the world.

He was a relative latecomer to the sport, having taken it up at 17, but went on to compete at three world championships before switching to coaching, something that earned him international fame.

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The straight talking Begg has been in charge of six different countries, having taken the Kiwis 10 times and Australia 12, as well as being the head coach of Columbia, Germany, Switzerland and Indonesia at various times.

Cheryl Begg (right) has also been heavily involved in skating, following Bill around the world on various coaching gigs.
John Bisset

Cheryl Begg (right) has also been heavily involved in skating, following Bill around the world on various coaching gigs.

Begg took Australia to No.1 in the world in 1989 and Columbia to the top of the rankings a year later. 

His no nonsense approach doesn't always endear him to everyone but his technical expertise has few peers.

Begg is seldom seen without his notebook, in which he keeps meticulous notes.

Nicole Begg followed her mother's tracks, becoming a world champion.
Supplied by Nicole Begg

Nicole Begg followed her mother's tracks, becoming a world champion.

His world championship tally also includes managing on three occasions, he attended once as a congress voting delegate and four times he was a member of the organising committee.

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Since his first appearance, Begg has only missed five in 45 years.

He remains very passionate about the sport and isn't likely to give it away any time soon.

Begg said he would love a new dynasty of champions to come out of Timaru as well as another world champion.

"That's what we are working on.

"I have plenty left in the tank. I am in better health and feeling more enthusiastic than 10 years ago."

Begg still coaches overseas in short stints but is happy back based in Timaru with is wife Cheryl, a former world champion in her own right.

"You don't make much money out of it (overseas) but it's been a great life.

"We live in a nine metre bus but we are happier than ever and have everything we need.

"Cheryl has her first ever dish washer."

Begg is confident the speed skating will grow again in New Zealand, albeit slowly.

"It's a great sport but very technical and requires good coaching.

"Like all sports a lack of quality coaching is the killer but in some centres with good support it is growing with some enthusiastic individuals there to drive the program."

Begg's big frustration is the loss of the top Kiwi inline skaters to ice, as they chase winter Olympic glory and also get grants from High Performance Sport New Zealand.  

"It's ruining our sport. It's the same world wide, inline develops them and then Olympic medals lures them to change over."

Begg said four time consecutive 15,000m world champion Peter Michael from Palmerston North was a classic example.

"No money for inline but if he wins an Olympic medal, ice will get the benefit.

"We just have to keep battling away."

Begg said he the loss of Michael, Shane Dobbin, Reyon Kay and Josh Whyte to ice meant world inline medals would likely be hard to come by this time round at the world championships.

"We are aiming at top 10 finishes."

On the positive side Begg said the inclusion of inline skating at the world university games and Youth Olympics, meant the sport was getting some traction. 

Timaru will have three representatives on the track at the world championships, including Leah McDonald and Ariana Snook in the juniors and sprinter Dale Christofferen in the mens.

 - Stuff

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