Skating – a metaphor for life
Keeping active and finding love in a sport.
BY: Sui Chin Han-McKeand
At 58, I am probably the world’s oldest female freestyle slalom skater … or at least the oldest in Hyde Park, London. I train with the British team, a small vibrant band of obsessive skaters. I am currently helping to fundraise and organise this year’s London World slalom competition.
Freestyle slalom skating is a nascent sport, which originated in Paris, and we skate through a line of 20 plastic cones doing all sorts of fancy tricks, almost like a dance routine. It requires great discipline and commitment, and highly suitable for compulsive-obsessive types.
I decided two years ago to take up inline rollerblading, having seen a huge parade of street skaters skating by my house with loud music. I thought to myself that is what I want to do – party on wheels.
I signed up on an impulse for skate lessons, and never looked back. I trained hard, weather permitting, almost every day. I am up at 6am, zipping around on the streets, greeting dog walkers, early commuters rushing off to work, some smile and acknowledge, some comment on how I have improved over the weeks and I am convinced there are lots of peeping Toms keeping tabs on my progress. One black guy even got on his skates to join me one morning! He wanted to show me how to skate backwards as I struggled to maintain my balance.
Many bumps and bruises later, I was introduced to freestyle slalom by a young skate mate. We took up serious lessons and later went to a slalom skate retreat in Belgium to train with a female world champ.
Now a self-confess skate addict, I own a pair of all carbon KSJ Seba slalom skates with titanium frames designed for the Korean world champ Kim Sung Jin. Slalom freestyle skating requires infinite devotion as well as passion. We learn precision techniques – fluency and fluidity. Well executed, it is pure physics in motion on wheels.
Skating with young people, mainly guys half my age, meant I have to keep up with them, their attitude and their tenacity. They watch me struggle through the hard moves, they watch me slip and fall, get up and try again and again. I may be slower than them, but I persist. They respect me for my perseverance. They are my surrogate sons.
They call me the ‘Ambassador of skating’.
These days, I get lots of curious spectators approach me to ask if I could teach them or their kids how to skate. I get people taking my photos, videoing me doing my tricks, interviewing me, standing and staring, or mesmerized by my stunts.
Some middle-aged ladies would ask if they too could learn to do this. I would often wink at them and tell them if I could do it at 58, anyone could do it!
Skating helped me overcome my own tragedy, having lost my husband 10 years ago and my only son last October. It is both a solitary and social sport. I could do it anytime on my own and it has become a means of transport in a city where the transport system is unreliable. It is a social sport because when I skate to the park, my fellow skate mates will be there.
To me, skating is about overcoming the three F-words – fear, fall and fail … a metaphor for life.
Singaporean lawyer Sui Chin-Han-McKeand is currently residing in London, and believes in keeping active. She returns to Singapore twice a year; in January, she hung out with slalom skate mates at East Coast Park. To them, she is known as “Bonnie”, her “skate pseudonym”.