Meeting the physical and mental challenges his sport brings, Caleb Wakefield finds himself competing at the highest level in a sport that remains on the periphery of a sports-obsessed American society.
The Enumclaw 18 year old is an inline skater, traveling the globe to battle the world’s best in a sport that appears long on organization but short on funding its individual athletes. That’s the case in the United States, at least.
In the beginning, Wakefield was an 8 year old pulling on a pair of inline skates for the first time. As part of a natural, athletic evolution, he began separating himself from his peers. The division is more mental than physical, he says, emphasizing the importance of overcoming the challenges stirring just beneath a protective helmet.
Competing as part of the Speed Team at Auburn Skate Connection – which he still represents – Wakefield moved up the ranks through competitions both local and then regional. Successes in the Pacific Northwest level took him to the national stage and competitions in such outposts as Fort Wayne, Ind., Lincoln, Neb., and Albuquerque, N.M.
A companion along the way has been his brother, Colin, now 25, who made many of the same trips. As they improved, the travel time became greater. Both have rolled their way through competitions in Germany and France, along with top-level competitions in the U.S. Both were at the U.S. nationals in June, looking for a spot on the country’s World Team.
Caleb was one of the six selected for the Junior Men squad on Team USA while Colin, competing in the adult ranks, just missed the cut.
Having made the national team, Wakefield headed to Belgium for a major international competition. He brought home third-place honors in the Junior A Division, having competed against several dozen athletes from around the world.
Next up is a late-September trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., where members of Team USA will train for a week with coach Renee Hildebrand.
The Colorado trip is part of a constant training regimen for Wakefield, all leading to the World Roller Speed Skating Championships, planned for Nov. 13-22 in Taiwan. Athletes from 50 nations will converge on the city of Kaohsiung, which is familiar in skate circles because it played host to the 2009 World Games.
Wakefield and his fellow American athletes do not share some of the benefits enjoyed by competitors from other countries. In some parts of the world, where inline skating is more popular, athletes are supported financially and are helped by the number of quality training facilities.
In the U.S., inline skaters are on their own financially, often sponsoring fundraising activities to help with travel costs.
At the Team USA level, there is a bit of cooperative assistance from the U.S. Olympic Committee. When in Colorado Springs, inline skaters use a USOC facility, but that’s the extent of the relationship.
The Wakefield brothers are hopeful that things could change. Those in charge of the Olympic Games will soon be addressing inline skating, deciding if the sport should be included in the every-four-years extravaganza. It has been considered before, without success, but vote totals have moved closer to acceptance.
Becoming a sanctioned Olympic sport would make a world of difference, primarily due to the funding that would follow the sport and its athletes.
SPEAKING OF FUNDING…
The nonprofit Auburn Speed Team is accepting donations to help Caleb Wakefield meet expenses associated with his upcoming trip to the world championships in Taiwan. He also will accept personal donations. Additionally, Wakefield is selling T-shirts sporting a graphic design reflecting the world championships. Anyone interested in supporting Wakefield can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or contact Auburn Skate Connection.