- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) - The sound of plastic skates clicking on the slick wooden floor of the Nampa Rollerdrome echoes throughout the rink.

If you stand close enough, you can feel a breeze as the skaters whiz by on their inline speed skates.

The Rollerdrome is the practice rink for some young world champion speed skaters, members of the Rollerdrome Rampage speed skate team.

“My son Nike took home five medals last year, and Parker took home a few, too,” said Jeremy Campbell, the speed skate coach. “None of my skaters left the competition without a medal.”

Campbell is referring to last year’s world champion inline skate competition, held annually in Las Vegas. This year, the 2016 Inline World Cup championships are from Feb. 23 to 25, and the Rollerdrome Rampage team is ready to bring home more gold medals.

The team members range in age from 4 to 19. The youngest champion is Stephin Malone, son of Chelsey Malone.

Stephin comes from a long line of roller-skating athletes. His mother used to roller skate at the Rollerdrome, and his grandmother, Vicky Malone, still works at the rink and is Campbell’s assistant coach for the team.

“I put him in skates the moment he could walk,” Vicky Malone said.

Getting to the championships takes practice. The team works together three times a week for up to two hours each practice. Campbell teaches the skaters techniques to gain speed, such as crouching lower to the floor while skating, along with endurance practice. Even though speed skating is an individual sport, Campbell said his team is a tight-knit community.

“The kids really get to know each other,” Campbell said. “They stick up for each other at meets and help each other at practice. They are closer than close.”

In recent months, the Rollerdrome Rampage skate team has suffered hard hits to its little inline skating family.

In November, Stephin Malone lost his mother Chelsey when she was only 23 years old. Chelsey Malone was stabbed to death outside of her home. Her ex-boyfriend, Brandon Shaw, is suspected in the death and has pleaded not guilty to charges.

If convicted, he may face the death penalty.

Between court dates, funerals and practices, members of the Malone family are doing their best to keep their heads up.

Chelsey Malone left behind Stephin Malone and her other sons, Tahner Malone, 2, and Easton Malone, 18 months. Today, Vicky Malone and her husband, Bill, are taking care of the boys.

Vicky Malone said that keeping up with speed skate practice is a way to keep a normal routine in the boys’ lives during their hard times.

“I do it for the boys,” she said. “Having the boys is like having three little parts of Chelsey.”

Bill Malone said that skating is a way to clear one’s mind of all the hardships in life. He said having a speed skating team to see multiple times a week has helped the children during the family’s hard time.

“The rink is a place you don’t have to watch every second of what they do because even the kids look out for the little ones,” Bill Malone said. “It’s not that you have to pay attention to what you are doing. It’s kind of the opposite. You’re in kind of your own bubble. Your worries just kind of melt away.”

Stephin will hopefully be joining his team to take home another medal to hang up at home next to the medal he won in the 2015 World Cup competitions.

The team took another hard hit on Dec. 28 when Peter Francois, past speed skater and brother to a current team member, died in a vehicle collision with a train. Campbell said Peter Francois used to be a fast skater, and his brother is also a champion. The Francois family decided to take a leave of absence while they grieve for their 19-year-old son and brother.

“The rink as a whole, we are just one big happy family,” Campbell said. “Because of that, we are always here and willing to be around each other. As our team, I think it gets a little closer than a family. We depend on one another. If someone doesn’t show up to practice, the team’s enthusiasm level drops.”

Campbell is the only inline speed skate coach in southwestern Idaho, and the Rollerdrome in Nampa is the only rink where a speed skate team can practice.

“The sport died down over the years,” Campbell said. “But it’s coming back. The largest team we’ve had is up to 30 people.”

The current team has more than 20 members who compete against each other for practice.

Campbell said anyone of any age is allowed on the team.

Two of Campbell’s team members, his son Nike, 11, and Parker Hubert, 12, can skate a lap in under nine seconds.

“They have both been trained under a past Olympian,” Campbell said. “They do crossovers from inline to ice skating.”

Other skaters have either just joined or have been building endurance and techniques to bring home gold.

Speed skating might not be the most popular sport. Campbell said it doesn’t live up to the hype of basketball and football, but his skaters go through a lot to earn their medals.

During a practice, skaters can fall at high speeds, putting others on the rink at risk of crashing. The skaters have to pay close attention on the rink to avoid crashes and broken bones. Breaking in new inline skates is also a brutal process.

“The skates cut off at the ankle so the skaters can turn better,” Campbell said. “It’s really hard on the joints, and they have blisters for weeks when breaking in new skates. The feet really suffer.”

Campbell said anyone wanting to try a new sport can come to the Rollerdrome in Nampa and find out what speed skating is all about.

The 2016 speed skating meet season will officially start in March, and the Rollerdrome Rampage team will be going to more than 10 competitions across the Pacific Northwest.

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Information from: Idaho Press-Tribune, https://www.idahopress.com

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