Chesterton Tribune

Thousands of roller skaters gather in Fort Wayne

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Thousands of roller skaters are in Fort Wayne to race and perform in national championships during the next three weeks.

The USA Roller Sports National Championships in speed skating and figure skating opened Sunday at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum. Organizers expect about 2,000 skaters to participate, with some 8,000 visitors coming to the city for the event.

The speed skating championships run until July 23, followed by the figure skating competition from July 24 to Aug. 7.

Within the national championships, skaters are competing for spots to qualify for the Pan American Games, scheduled for October in Mexico and the World Championships in November in Brazil, said Jane Wojnarowsky, figure skating director for USA Roller Sports.

The championship events are being held for their 74th year and are in Fort Wayne for the first time.

“They’ve really opened up their hearts to us, quite honestly,” Wojnarowsky told The Journal Gazette.

“There’s a great population of roller skating lovers in the Midwest.”

Christian Keesler, a 15-year-old sophomore at Wayne High School in Fort Wayne, is among the competitors in the events more associated with ice skating. He has been involved in speed skating for several years, spending much of his summers training with a Michigan team.

“I just tell myself to take it from the top,” Keesler said. “I know I can do this.”

More than 30 races a day are scheduled during the speed skating competition, after practice sessions starting about 7:20 a.m.

Local officials estimate visitors for the competition will spend up to $5 million, including lodging, shopping and eating.

“I think they’ve really found Fort Wayne to be a great fit for them as far as being affordable, real family-friendly, and I think the Coliseum is going to be a great fit for them,” VisitFortWayne marketing manager Kristen Guthrie said. “I think it’s going to be a real successful event, something we host really well here."

 

Posted 7/19/2011

 

 

 

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