Buisson the hero in winning the Goat
Five minutes before making her inline speed skating comeback, Meaghan Buisson was worried.
1 It had been 2 ⁄ years since the Sas
2 katoon skater had competed in the sport in which she holds the world record for a solo marathon time trial. Now, less than a week after she had moved to Oegestgeest in the Netherlands to compete, she found herself in Waarde, a medieval town that clearly harboured a fascination with goats, preparing to take the line for a 40-kilometre marathon.
She planned to play it safe, staying back in the pack. She tried not to think about the cobblestone roads that lay ahead or the years of injuries. The only thing that kept the comeback anxiety at bay was a more immediate, more perplexing concern: The name of the race. The Battle for the Goat.
Buisson and her Oomssport teammates had begun to expect that winning this thing might land you with more than you had bargained for.
“You might want to come in second,” Buisson said of the race.
The first wave of relief came in the form of one of her teammates, who arrived at the start line laughing hysterically. Apparently, the RSPCA had banned the goat, which was the traditional prize. A bouquet of flowers and a large trophy featuring — what else? — a goat posing on a mound of cobblestone was all the winner had to sneak through customs.
The second wave of relief hit 40 km later. During the course of the race, Buisson had lost a wheel, flashed the Belgium crowd after falling on the cobblestone and ripping her skin suit and totally abandoned her polite race plan. Her feet were ripped to shreads and her lungs were stinging.
“I won!” said the 29-year-old owner of a sexy, new goat trophy via phone from the Netherlands.
For Buisson, the only Canadian inline skater competing overseas, that victory came at the end of a long and bumpy road.
The five-time overall Canadian champion was recruited as a cross- over athlete by the Own the Podium program in 2005. She moved to Calgary and made the switch to speed skating on ice. Years of injury and frustration followed. Finally, a herniated back “mercifully” ended her speed skating career. She rehabbed all winter with the help of coach Bruce Craven, before deciding to make the trip to Europe and back to her first passion, inline skating. When she saw video of her first practice with her Netherlands team, she knew she had made the right decision.
“Everybody’s really intense,” she said, “and I’ve got this huge grin on my face the entire practice.”
Despite her pleasure at being back on skates, the Battle of the Goat was an ornery beast.
The Dutch skaters
the course the worst road they’d ever skated on. Two hundred metres into the race, Buisson realized she wasn’t going to be playing it nice and made her attack, ending up skating ahead with a men’s group.
Late in the race, she heard the dreaded click-click of her wheel coming off. Having decided not to cart around her allen wrench at the last second, Buisson kept skating. She lost the wheel and her balance on the next section of cobblestone. She got up and kept going. Finally, when she hit the edge of town, the race starter rushed to her assistance, performing what she likens to “a pit stop in a Molson Indy.” She didn’t lose her lead once. In fact, she may have just come back stronger, perhaps an unexpected benefit of her years speed skating.
“I didn’t know what level I’d be coming back at,” she says. “But my top-end speed right now is faster than I’ve ever been.”
Buisson is hoping to translate that promising start and unexpected speed into more results this weekend, when she competes in the World of Wheels international competition in Holland. She’ll be racing five races in six days. In July, she’ll make a trip back to Canada for nationals, which run July 3-5 in Ontario. Then, she’ll sit down and make the decision of whether to aim for the world championships or another world record, this one in the 60-minute time trial. For now, feet dipped in alcohol to harden the blisters and relieved of the burden of caring for a goat, she couldn’t sound happier.
“All winter, it was training to feel happy again on skates,” she said. “That’s what I lost on ice. To be back, doing what I love as an inline speed skater, it’s such an awesome gift.”