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Skater on a roll

Waynesboro, Pa., teen wins international speed-skating competition in Italy

Waynesboro, Pa., teen wins international speed-skating competition in Italy

October 12, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Darren Kauffman is a winner. A world champion.

Late this summer, the 17-year-old skated at the 2004 Inline Speed Skating World Championships in Italy. Competitors hailed from 50 countries - Colombia, Korea and France among them.

Darren was one of eight Americans competing at the junior level - ages 13 to 17. He had qualified at national championships in Colorado Springs, Colo., last May. Sixteen senior-level competitors, ages 18 and older, also traveled to Italy for three weeks at the end of August.

The World Championships in Italy are outdoor skating events. Competition takes place in road races and on a parabolic, banked track.

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Darren came back with a gold medal as a member of a three-man relay team in a 5,000-meter track event. He earned a silver medal in a 10-kilometer road race as part of a three-man relay team, and a bronze medal was awarded for his individual 10-kilometer effort on the track. He also came in second in overall track competition.

The wiry Waynesboro, Pa., resident has been skating since he was 8. He had gone to a rink with his older sister. He started on regular "quad" skates - four wheels, two pairs, one in front of the other. Now he wears inline skates, which have four or five polyurethane wheels in a row. Skates cost from $250 to $1,000 a pair. Because of his success, Darren is sponsored by Mogema, a manufacturer in Holland and California. The company is making him a pair of custom skates.

Patty Leazier owns iSkate81, a roller rink just outside Greencastle, with her husband, David. She's been around skating since she was 2, took up speed skating, won some national competitions and teaches the sport. Last year her team was No. 1 at the Junior Olympics in Lincoln, Neb., an indoor competition.

She currently coaches 75 skaters, ages 4 to 45.

Leazier has been Darren's coach since he was 9. She spotted something special in him the first time she saw him skate.

"I saw an incredible athlete," she said.

The home-schooled youth skates for a half-hour to two hours six days a week.

He has no fear of injury. He's already had his share of falls, of bumps and bruises.

"I've done it all," he said.

What's speed skating's appeal for the wiry 17-year-old?

"Just the craziness about it. You're always on the edge," he said.

He's fast, skating about 30 mph on the road. He's been clocked at 8.6 seconds for 100 meters.

World competition was different from contests in America. In a junior girls' track event, Darren saw a skater push one of his teammates with two hands. "They bump, they pull your hip, they push," Darren said. "It's rough. It's hockey."

The 5-foot-5-inch, 123-pound skater said he thinks about a race before it starts. Once it does, he operates on instinct.

Darren glided steadily around iSkate81's 75-by-160-foot maple skating floor. He leaned into his smooth strides, taking the rink's corners by pushing off both feet, gracefully crossing the outside skate in front of the inside.

His family has supported his efforts. Each skater needed to raise $3,000.

"I never thought it would go this far," said Tina Kauffman, Darren's mother.

She was able to travel to Italy to watch her son compete.

Darren plans to continue skating competitively as a senior after he turns 18.

"It's going to be a lot harder," Tina Kauffman said.

Leazier and Kauffman are hoping that inline speed skating will become an Olympic sport - possibly by 2012. It might be a demonstration sport at the games in Beijing in 2008.




If you go ...


Meet Darren Kauffman, world champion inline speed skater

Saturday, Oct. 16

1 to 4 p.m., open house; 2 p.m., Darren will sign autographs; 2:30 p.m., speed skating demonstration

iSkate81

11440 Grindstone Hill Road

Greencastle, Pa.

Directions from Hagerstown: Take Interstate 81 to exit 5. Turn right off exit ramp. Turn right at second light to Grindstone Hill Road. iSkate81 is 1/4 mile on the left.

For information, call 1-717-597-2291.

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