British Skating Legends

Unsung heroes of British roller speed skating


Despite Britain having held its own British Championships since 1894 it wasn't until 1930 that the first major competition between nations was held.

In 1930 the first European Championship took place in Anvers, Belgium (there are some suggestions that this was not official and that the first "official" Championship took place in Stuttgart, Germany in 1936 - records of Britain's involvement in major Championships can only be found from 1936 onwards).  The first World Championships was held in Monza, Italy in 1937.

Whilst these Championships were in the early days of their being they were stopped suddenly by the outbreak of the Second World War.  Between 1939 and 1947 there were no World or European Championships.  On September 11th 1948, they resumed with an event held in Monfalcone, Italy.  All Championships between 1937 and 1965 were classed as World and European Championships, where the winner was crowned World Champion and European Champion as invariably the winner was from Europe.  The first none European to win a World title was, in fact, Mervyn Wybrott from New Zealand, who won the 20000 metres in Wetteren, Belgium in 1960.  Not until 1968 would a none European woman win a World title, when Marlene McDonald, again from New Zealand, won the 500 metres knock-out in Montecchio (Vicenza), Italy.  Siracuse in September 1965 was the last time that the two Championships were combined.

The first womens World Championships were not held until 1953 at Venice Lido.

The first time a World Championship was held separately from a European Championship was in April 1966 on the road in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and again this was only for men.  It was also the first World Championships to be held outside of Europe.

In 1967 the first "solo" European Championship since 1935 was held in Inzell, Germany.  Later that year a World Championships just for women was held in Barcelona, Spain.

In 1969 again the World Championships were held in Mar del Plata, Argentina, this time on the newly built 200 metre banked track.  Like 1966 it was a Championships open for men only.  It would be the last time that a major championships did not cater for both sexes.

World Championship events seemed to be held on an ad-hoc basis for many years.  For example there were no events between 1969 and 1975, and then not again until 1978.  It was only from 1978 onwards that World Championships were held every year. The same went for European Championships, although admittedly they were held more frequently - but in 1972 and 1976 there was neither a World nor European Championships.  Like the World Championships, the format for regular road and track European Championships did not materialise until the late 1970's.

Since 1978 the format for the World Championships has continually changed between either track one year and road the next to both road and track in the same year, although there has always been at least one Championship every year.

In 1980 Italy hosted the first Junior European Championships, with the track in Venice and the road in Finale Emilia.


The first World Championship Marathon Championship was introduced in Rome in 1992 and was a regular feature up until 2010 (although there was no Marathon in 1993).  The Marathon was reinstated after a couple of years absence in 2013 at the World Championships in Belgium.

The current format for European Championships is generally road and track in the same year (although 2012 did not have a road Championships due to a change of venue at the last minute).  This format has not changed since 1979 albeit with the inclusion of a Marathon - which was first introduced in 1996.

In 1992 the World Championships allowed inlines for the first time.  There were events solely for "traditional skates" and events classed as "open" where skaters could choose the type of skate they wanted to use.  It was the same in 1993 but in 1994 all events were classed as "open".

European Championships followed suit albeit lagging behind the World Championships by a year in each case.

The use of "traditional skates" in any competition, whilst theoretically allowed, is now unheard of at major international competitions.

In 1993 the Junior European category was split into two age groups - Cadet up to 16 years of age and Junior 16 to 18 years of age.  In 1996 a World Championships for the Junior category was introduced.

In 2011 a further age category was introduced in the Junior group - now resulting in four age categories in total for European Championships (Senior, Junior A, Junior B and Cadet), whilst still maintaining just two categories (Senior and Junior) at World Championships.

In 2013 the first mixed sex event took place in the European Championships in Almere, Holland with a 4000 metres mixed relay event.

Both World and European Championships have evolved over the years and continue to do so.  With it so does skate technology and Britain continues to embrace these changes with a hope that one day we once again mix it with the elite of world skating.