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Roller Skating

Biddle making most of return to sport

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PAUL VERNON/THISWEEKSPORTS
Dennis Biddle, a 58-year-old Clintonville resident, enjoyed a successful return to the sport of speed skating. Competing for the first time since 1975, Biddle teamed with Jason Dlugokecki to place third in the 2-man relay in the USA Roller Sports speed skating championships last month in Nebraska.
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Don't tell Dennis Biddle that getting back into his sport was just like riding a bike.

You just can't hop back into roller skates and let muscle memory do the rest, at least not after a 38-year layoff.

"The first few months back on skates weren't pretty," said the 58-year-old Clintonville resident, who raced competitively from 1960 until 1975 and began training again in 2012. "I grew up in Philadelphia as a 'rink rat' and medaled in 1969 and 1971 when I lived in New Jersey. It has taken a lot of hard work to compete on that level again."

Biddle competed in the USA Roller Sports speed skating championships July 13-19 in Lincoln, Neb.

Biddle, who is classified in the esquire men's division (ages 55 and older), joined teammate Jason Dlugokecki of Ravenna to finish third in the 2-man relay (2,000 meters) in the classic division (ages 25-34). Dlugokecki is classified in the master men's division (ages 35-44).

In the event, each skater alternates two-lap stints on the track with a relay tag (push) in between. Biddle compared it to short-track ice speed skating relays.

"In my first year back competing last year, I was second in esquire in the nationals in Albuquerque, N.M., but I didn't do as well this year," Biddle said. "They combine your times in the 300, 500 and 700 meters and I qualified for finals but did not medal.

"Jason and I had decided we would compete with the young guys in the 2-man relay and we did well. Considering I was the only 'cotton top' out there, it was a good showing."

Biddle and Dlugokecki are members of Team RollerHut, which trains in Garrettsville.

"I don't get to train with them much during the year," he said. "Consequently, to stay in shape, I skate a lot at Skate Zone 71, where I am a floor guard. I also jog around Clintonville and work out at Planet Fitness."

Biddle, who was team captain of a group that raced in England in 1974, said he tried in-line skating before but never felt comfortable and switched back to traditional skates with two wheels on front and two on back.

He said his training has changed as well.

"In the '70s, we trained with the old ankle weights strapped on the skates, but it's awfully clumsy to do it that way," he said. "So when I'm training at Skate Zone 71, I'm using very soft wheels. They're so soft you feel like you're slogging through mud. It makes me push harder and I will train in three- and four-hour shifts when the business is closed.

"The rink manager, Jason Allen, is familiar with racing and once owned a team. He is gracious in allowing me to train during non-working hours. It's a great facility and to be able to work and train in the same facility is amazing. He goes above and beyond just being my employer."

Biddle said although the indoor season has concluded and won't begin again until late October, he will be competing in some outdoor events.

Next up is the Park N Roll Festival on Aug. 30 in Munroe Falls.

"I can't wait to compete again," Biddle said. "It's in my blood."

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