What would happen if you spun around more than 30 times in a minute? “You’d probably vomit or get dizzy. But most freestyle skaters have become used to spinning, as their coaches won’t allow them to stop,” says local roller-sports star Ben Lo Ng-shuen. “We often need to spin artistically in competitions, so we need to find ways to cope with the dizziness.”
For those who want to give it a shot, the 18-year-old student from Yuen Long Merchants Association Secondary School suggests: “If you spin clockwise 15 times, then spin counter-clockwise another 15 times. It’s just a good way to strike a balance. And although there is no scientific proof that it helps, I sometimes drink Coke after spinning to cope with the gas in my stomach.”
However, success in skating doesn’t just depend on the number of spins you can do; all your moves need to be artistic and creative. Ben says his best move is the Toe Christie, in which he balances on one wheel of each skate as he moves forward.
“This move requires a high level of balance, power and coordination,” says Ben. “To find that balance, you need powerful leg muscles that can support your whole body. So my training involves some basic leg exercises like running and squats.”
Another vital aspect is how you use your hips, he adds. “Your hips generate power to spin, jump and bend your knees. To strengthen my hips, doing core exercises, such as sit-ups and crunches, is very important.”
But it’s not just physical power that is essential. Freestyle skating combines music and performance, requiring athletes to use different moves to interpret the songs.
“You need to fully understand a song, and think about the moves that can convey its meaning,” Ben says. “Dance music, for example, requires me to perform every move more energetically.”
Ben became the first Hongkonger to win a medal – a bronze – in the Senior Men’s Battle category, when he took third place at the 17th Asian Roller Skating Championships in Lishui, in Zhejiang Province, in November. “I hadn’t thought about winning a medal at this tournament because my coach told me it was just to gain experience by competing with the world’s leading roller skaters,” Ben says. “I was also the youngest athlete in this category, so I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself. Perhaps that’s why I performed so well and won a bronze.”
Ben is clearly strong in the freestyle battler, but he’s also honing his skills in the classic freestyle and speed slalom events. He’ll be competing in all three of those events at the Asean Freestyle Skating Championship 2017, in Penang, Malaysia, from May 31 to June 3.
If you could have the ability of any animal for a competition, which would you choose?
A monkey, because of its agility and balancing skills. Although they look naughty, they actually don’t mind making mistakes and are very brave. With such a thick skin, I’m sure I could perform efficiently and artistically.
Which fictional character would you choose as your teammate?
I would want Saitama from the Japanese manga series, One-Punch Man. His physical strength and speed would be a great help in a team. I’m sure he would be able to make many brilliant moves, like jumps or spins. Plus he’s always cheerful and approachable, so he should be easy to work with.
Which drink would you never give up?
Milk tea. Its taste and smell refreshes me every time.
What song best describes you when you’re roller skating?
Don’ts Don’ts by the Taiwanese band Mayday. The song encourages people to dance even when they are sad. It’s such an inspiring song that I always listen to it before any competition.