Marking the end of the contest season, this last weekend might have been the most important of the whole year for inline skating. On one side of the planet, a true legend of the sport organized the 8th annual Blading Cup in sunny Santa Ana, California. Celebrating the sport and its culture with a 100% blader-made event, Jon Julio succesfully gathered hundreds of friends around a DIY skatepark and a shared love for blading. Meanwhile, in China, the biggest action sports festival on the planet put a closing to their 2018 World Series with another massive event:
That would be FISE Chengdu, and that’s precisely where we’re going to take you today!
Born in the South of France, and having steadily grown over the past 22 years, FISE goes way back, and while staying true to its roots, it has the potential to go further than any similar event series before. It just so happens that blading is part of its roots, and for better and worse, through the years our little wheels have remained an inclusive part of the Festival International des Sports Extrêmes, from Palavas all the way to China!
After the initial launch event in Jeddah last March, the actual 2018 World Series truly began in Hiroshima, before moving back to FISE’s home turf in the heart of Montpellier. With the unfortunate cancellation of its third stop in Budapest, all eyes were set on the ultimate stop held in Chengdu. For the 5th year now, the Sichuan capital is not only home to some really hot food and cute pandas, but also athletes from all over the globe competing one last time before hitting the off-season for some well-deserved rest.
While China might be disorienting at first, with time it has become a familiar place somehow, where navigating through the apparent complexity of everyday life and communicating despite the strong language barreer has become some kind of game whose rules most have accepted, when not joyfully adopted! After all, there’s little point in traveling if it’s to find yourself stuck in the same routine everywhere, and the FISE has proven to be an incredible opportunity to experience the world differently.
Blading is no different, and while there were many familar faces in Chengdu this year, there were also a lot of first-timers eager to see what the event is all about, looking forward to seeing China through their own eyes and skating with people hailing from faraway places. The Dutch and Japanese crews were heavily represented, along with Denmark’s Jacob Juul, Croatia’s Tin Hadziomerspahic, France’s Manon Derrien or Spain’s Mery Munoz, and all brought their own flavor to the event too!
They also brought some really serious skating.
Most were hungry and ready to battle for the top spot, and while all 12 finalists were guaranteed a paycheck, a healthy 2500€ prize for first place most definitely kept everyone motivated to go hard on the course! The latter being a massive, BMX-oriented park, the semi-finals quickly separated the best from the rest. With no room for error, every small mistake did cost a lot of speed and skin. With some consistent runs and signature spins, not to forget a ballsy true mizou on top of the vert wall, Julien Cudot eventually qualified in first place, and on to the finals we went.
It was all a different game on Sunday though. Things quickly changed when French powerhouse Diako Diaby took everyone by surprise, coming in strong with a massive first run which allowed him to take the lead early on. Heavy contenders such as Nicolas Servy, Maxime Genoud, Worapoj Boonnim or Holland’s Sem Croft and Jaro Frijn tried their best to change the course of the event, with little luck. In the end their fate was already sealed.
Just hours after the Blading Cup crowned its 2018 champion, FISE World Chengdu saw the relatively unknown Diako Diaby take first place ahead of big names like Joe Atkinson and Yuto Goto, respectively 2nd and 3rd. Not an easy feat considering the well-documented skills and experience of both these riders, and pretty much any other finalist!
Additionally, based on the points he earned on the different stops throughout the whole season, Joe also took the 2018 World Series title itself.
Something more important than awards and titles even: There was a lot of diversity on the podium, different styles of skating represented, and overall this was a nice reminder of the great platform FISE can be for blading as a whole. Showcasing Diako’s high amplitude park skating, mixed with the creativity and flow of Mr. Atkinson, or the street oriented, highly technical blading of Yuto to a big crowd is not only good for the sport, but also offers different flavors for different kids to get hooked on those wheeled boots of ours.
The future of our sport is often debated, and remains an open discussion to this day. Yet for a generation that ritually mourns the day the X Games dropped inline skating, it is ironic FISE sometimes gets criticized for being too mainstream, not representative of the sport, too corporate, not underground enough… Yet its constant support of blading and bladers, through thick and thin, often goes unnoticed. So just as Blading Cup represents the sport, it is worth acknowledging FISE represents us all the same.
The event is simply what us, bladers, will make of it.
Thousand miles apart, it might be telling that both in Santa Ana, California, and Chengdu, China, a talented black guy got first place, a Roces pro took second, and the third was wearing a pair of Them skates… Two very different places, two very different contests and yet, in the end very similar results. It might be another sign that despite the world that separates these events, both truly are a manifestation of the same blade spirit emanating of these wheeled boots of ours, and worth cherishing all the same!