A life on wheels: Skaters shred at Htaukkyant Skate Land

A life on wheels: Skaters shred at Htaukkyant

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - NANDAR AUNG

CRASH! The teenage skater, speed­ing to­ward the con­crete arch, sud­denly lost con­trol and fell heav­ily, bring­ing the au­di­ence to their feet, all clap­ping sud­denly silent. Undaunted, she at once got up and com­pleted her round.

She was not the only one. An eight-year-old boy up from Dawei, Tanintharyi Re­gion, also scram­bled to his feet af­ter a tum­ble at Mil­lion Skate Land, next to the Coca-Cola fac­tory in Htaukkyant.

“At first I couldn’t even stand up with my skates on,” said Moe Moe Nwe, 19, from Dawei. “But now that I’ve been prac­tis­ing for a year, I find skat­ing more fun than go­ing to the gym.”

More than 200 en­thu­si­asts, ju­niors, se­niors and pro­fes­sional skaters from around the coun­try met in the Myan­mar Na­tional Skat­ing Cham­pi­onship 2016, or­gan­ised by the Myan­mar Skate As­so­ci­a­tion (MSA) on Oc­to­ber 17 and 18.

In­line skater Htun Ye Htun, from Bago Re­gion, said, “I’ve been skat­ing since 2013. It’s more than a hobby. Skat­ing can leave me hurt and ex­hausted, but it’s made me stronger than be­fore. And I feel re­laxed and con­fi­dent when I stand on my wheels.” He went on to win first place in the in­line fun run against dozens of com­peti­tors.

The two-day com­pe­ti­tion saw in­line skaters and skate­board­ers com­pet­ing in cat­e­gories like skate­board rac­ing, jump­ing, in­line fun run, in­line jump­ing, speed slalom one foot, slalom ba­sic tricks and many more.

The MSA picked 10 tal­ented skaters to step up to the 10th World Free-style Skat­ing Cham­pi­onship, to be held at Hua­mark, Bangkok, from No­vem­ber 17 through 21. It’s the first time Myan­mar skaters have com­peted in the WFSSC, which will bring to­gether con­tes­tants from 35 coun­tries. Yan Lin Aung, 25, said he hoped skat­ing would pick up speed in Myan­mar.

“It’s a real sport,” said Yan Lin Aung, who comes from Man­dalay. “We’re go­ing to try harder and get bet­ter. We won’t let our fans down.”

Yan Lin Aung fell in love with skat­ing as a child, and haunted the first skate park to be opened in Man­dalay in 2012. He didn’t let a bro­ken el­bow, sus­tained the fol­low­ing year, hold him back. Nor did it stop him when his par­ents locked him up and con­fis­cated his skates. “Once I even had a head in­jury,” he said.

But it was not un­til he joined MSA mem­bers un­der Yan­gon’s Hledan fly­over in 2013 that he learned ad­vanced tech­nique.

“I’ve learned a lot from MSA, es­pe­cially about how to fall safely,” he said. “If you know how to fall, you’re not afraid even of a 5- or 7-foot height. It’s all about ex­pe­ri­ence. A lot of peo­ple are in­ter­ested in skat­ing. I don’t blame peo­ple for be­ing afraid of get­ting hurt. But for me, it’s a career.”

In 2013, he came fourth in the Myan­mar Na­tional Skat­ing Com­pe­ti­tion at Mary Chap­man School for the Deaf. The next year, in Man­dalay, he came first, win­ning the chance to go over­seas to com­pete in De­cem­ber in Malaysia. Fac­ing com­peti­tors from 12 South­east Asian coun­tries, he came third.

Myan­mar Skate As­so­ci­a­tion was launched by en­thu­si­asts from around the coun­try in May 2013, in Yan­gon.

Af­ter the Thuwanna skatepark was de­stroyed, skaters and skate­board­ers didn’t have a proper venue in Yan­gon. They rode around the city in­stead, car­ry­ing mo­bile ramps and us­ing what­ever space was avail­able.

“I’ve been crazy about skat­ing for more than 20 years,” said 34-year-old Ko Lwin Latt, a founder of the MSA and or­gan­iser of MNSC 2016. “I’ve tried to com­pete in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions, but I was re­jected as Myan­mar was banned from South­east Asian com­pe­ti­tions. So I tried to de­velop skat­ing with young Myan­mar peo­ple.”

As he worked to build the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2013, Ko Lwin Latt has en­coun­tered a lot of dif­fi­cul­ties, in­clud­ing a lack of fund­ing and places to train. He has writ­ten to the sport, min­istry ask­ing them to recog­nise skat­ing as a sport.

“We want to share our skat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers so they can be­come pro­fes­sion­als,” he said. “We want to see more peo­ple skat­ing, and earn­ing money from it. Skat­ing can help stop young peo­ple tak­ing drugs, smok­ing and drink­ing.”

Though the Hledan fly­over was not ex­actly built with skaters in mind, it be­came their home, its huge con­crete beams shel­ter­ing a show­case for their ex­pe­ri­ences, train­ing and tech­niques. Every Fri­day even­ing, there is a free class for begin­ners. “Most of our medal win­ners prac­tised their skills un­der the fly­over,” said Ko Lwin Latt.

Though the Olympic au­thor­i­ties recog­nise skat­ing as a sport, the view of the old govern­ment seemed to be that it was just a dan­ger­ous game for kids.

Now, Man­dalay, Dawei, Bago, Pyin Oo Lwin and other places have skate parks.

Yan­gon has less pub­lic space than most ma­jor cities. Nev­er­the­less, skaters find so­lace at Mil­lion Skate Land, which was built in 2013, and Mya Lay Yone Skate Park in Ka­maryut town­ship, opened last year by the Push­ing Myan­mar Project, run by Make Life Skate Life, a Ger­man NGO.

Six­teen-year-old Kyaw Min Khant, 16, from South Okkalapa town­ship, is de­ter­mined. He started skat­ing a year ago to get fit, de­velop stamina and build self­con­fi­dence. “Skaters look af­ter each other,” he said. “I go every Fri­day. I want to be a fa­mous skater.”

Pho­tos: Sup­plied/ Myan­mar Skate As­so­ci­a­tion

In­line skaters line up to show off their tal­ent at the Myan­mar Na­tional Skat­ing Cham­pi­onship on Oc­to­ber 17 and 18.

A new gen­er­a­tion of Myan­mar rollerbladers raise their hands in sup­port.

One skate­boarder kick flips his board in front of a lively au­di­ence.

An in­line skater swishes in and out of a line of or­ange cones.

A novice skater prac­tices skat­ing in a straight line.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.