Slalom skating picks up in Chennai

Twenty tiny cones — yellow, orange, green, blue — sit in an obedient single file on the cemented grounds of Team Nandhu roller skating rink in Besant Nagar. One hurricane later, three of them fly off their positions. This particular hurricane is in the shape of KG Maythiresh.

The 10-year-old eyes the cones from three feet away and then speeds towards them on his inline skates. On reaching the first cone, he raises one leg and swerves, weaving in and out of the cones on one foot. It is all over in five seconds.

This is the speed-style of slalom skating, which requires the skater to criss-cross between cones as fast as possible without displacing more than four cones. It is one of the newer fields in the State-level skating championships in Tiruppur this weekend, organised by Tamil Nadu Roller Skating Association. Eight children from Chennai will be participating in the slalom skating competition.

Nandhalal, popularly known among the kids as Master Nandhu, is training the skaters in this style. “There will be different types of skating in this championship. You have the regular speed skating, artistic and roller hockey,” he says, pointing to the children on quad skates at the other side of the rink, “Then you have alpine, downhill, and slalom.”

Slalom, the more technical of the lot, has been around for a while now. However, it is just in this past year that it has been gaining popularity among the city’s skaters. “I have been teaching skating since the past 15 years, but I started teaching slalom skating only a year ago, after taking part in this field in last year’s Nationals,” says Nandhu.

He is an executive member of the Tamil Nadu Roller Skating Association, and has himself been skating for 20 years, since he was five. His father, Dronacharya award recipient D Sreekumar, started this rink in 1996. The academy now has over 13,000 registered skaters.

“For slalom skating, you need speed and flexibility. But more than that, your mind should also be fast,” says Nandhu. Behind him, Maythiresh’s elder sister, 14-year-old Kamini, is practising classic freestyle slalom: jumping and spinning around the cones with her arms raised like a ballerina. This style involves performing tricks and choreographed dance moves around three straight lines of cones. Participants are allotted two minutes for this, and are judged based on their grace, skill, and rhythm.

To their tune

Slalom skating picks up in Chennai

“I like freestyle better than speed because I get to dance,” says Kamini, when she and the other boys take a break from the practice. “She will be dancing to ‘Faded’,” says 10-year-old J Pranav. “She loves Alan Walker,” he adds, mock-screaming the lyrics, “Where are you now!” into Kamini’s ears. Pranav himself will be dancing to DJ Snake’s ‘Taki Taki’.

The skating championship this year has also introduced a new category, ‘Masters’, for those aged above 30. This is unusual because most of the skaters are children. Nandhu’s academy sees adult skaters, however, “They skate only to maintain fitness, but children are very open to experimenting. They are not hesitant that they will get injured!” says Nandhu.

Meanwhile, Pranav and his friends resume skating. He zips on bent knees, squats and pulls up one leg, his entire body weight resting on one foot — a position most adults could not manage even without standing on wheels.

The slalom skating championship will be held on November 16 and 17 at Swami Vivekananda School, Kangayam. Winners will head to the Nationals at Visakhapatnam in December.

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