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ROLABOI - Renegade Skater

From finding a pair of rusty roller skates in a garage, Jayson Sutcliffe went on to become three times world champion in his sport, overcoming trial and hardship, bias and abuse and the untimely death of his beloved brother. Jayson was the first artistic roller skater from Australia to win an individual medal at a Word Championship and went on to make history by becoming the first skater ever to win a world title on both roller and in line skates for figure skating.

In Store Price: $AU24.95
Online Price:   $AU23.95

ISBN:1-9210-0501-7
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 315
Genre: Non Fiction 

 

 

Author: Jayson Sutcliffe
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2004
Language: English

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INLINE skater Jayson Sutcliffe has rolled to another world title.

The 35-year-old has returned to Melbourne from Rome , where he was crowned men's artistic inline skating world champion.

One of Sutcliffe's biggest supporters is actor Melissa George, who has agreed to narrate a documentary about the sport, which Sutcliffe has produced.

The two met 15 years ago when George was a top-class competitive inline skater.

Sutcliffe saw her again last week in Sydney .

"She's still quite passionate about it," he said.

"She got on the skates for the first time for 13 years last week, and I could see that she's still a skater at heart."

Sutcliffe competed in his first world championships at age 20 in Italy in 1985.

But after several world titles and more than a dozen national titles, he's decided it's time to hang up the skates.

"I was hoping to win this one as I knew it was going to be the last one," Sutcliffe said.

"I guess there has to be a point where you have to say that's it, as it's been 20 years since my first world championships."

Sutcliffe has written a book about his career called Rolaboi.

He is hoping the doco will raise the sport's profile.

"There is very little recognition, and human spirit drives the sport, so I'm looking closely at that," Sutcliffe said.

FOREWARD 

 

When my best friend gave me an autobiography as a gift for Christmas three years ago, my first thought was, ‘I don’t really read much’.  Then, after reading only three chapters, I soon found myself at a desk enthusiastically tapping away on a keyboard, recounting my own life story.  Not for a second did I envisage having the work published, it was purely an outlet to find clarity in my life at the time.

 

Writing provided many answers to unanswered questions I had as a child, and as an adult. The exploration required to document the past is no easy task.  In fact, it has been a combination of both, pain and passion, whilst at the same time being overwhelming, and exhilarating.  I soon learnt that my life hasn’t been all roses, not at all.  Sure, there have been highs, extreme mountain tops in fact, yet there have been considerable lows, lows that have given me guidance and knowledge that only failure can bring.

 

What I have written about, in essence, is simply an account of my life with no holding back.  Ideally, I wanted to celebrate the involvement in my sport, what the intensity of competition beholds, what friendships it creates and what memories it has given me.  That I have done…  Yet, there is another side of my life that beckoned to be told, the untold stories that remained inner secrets until only I found the courage from writing to deal with the issues and confront them.  In doing so, I hope that anyone who reads this book, who has encountered events of any such nature, will also find a strength from within to deal with the issue and ultimately, find closure, or prevention of such incidents for others.

 

My involvement in a unique and obscure sport, like artistic roller skating, was never questionable when I first took to wheels.  It was a sport, like any other, and extremely popular at the time, it was the 80`s after all. Being different, on the other hand, was questionable. Was I, or wasn’t I different? Who had the answers? And what was so different about me?  That was what I was in search of, and about to learn, it was what the sport revealed, a side of me, both my family, and I, had never known or experienced. 

 

Being surrounded by creative people and the competitive environment of skating, gave me a dream… a goal, to be the best in the world, a reason to be alive.  There were people around me, including my family, who wanted to see me achieve that goal, whether I was rebellious, different or otherwise, and with that support the goal was ultimately achieved.  At the same time, I also learnt, life is a hell of a lot more enjoyable when dreams are shared with family and friends.

 

CHAPTER 1

COME IN TO MY ROOM 

  

My heart was pounding so hard I thought it might explode from my chest.  My palms were sweating.  For a moment, time stood still.  Then the confirmation came through: My dream of becoming World Champion had been realized!

After the years of dedication, the trauma of having dealt with the senseless death of people dear to me, the endless journey to discover who and what I am, I had finally made it. And yet in some ways, the journey had only just begun… 

As a child watching Saturday morning cartoons I did what many children do, I imagined myself as a hero, a champion … a person who could defeat the odds and win.  But when I left the sanctity of this imaginary world and re-entered the cold harsh reality of the real world, even as a small child I knew I hadn’t found my niche. I didn’t always fit in.  I was never enthusiastic about contact or team sports.  I always preferred lying on my bed in my room, drawing various cartoon heroes: Astro boy, Marine boy, Road Runner and The Herculoids - these were among my favorites, each for being unique in their own way.  My other love, perhaps my true love at the time, was horses.  I especially loved to draw them.  I fancied that one day I would be a jockey, until I learnt I was going to be too tall.   It was a brutal slap in the face, my one dream stolen away from me because of something I had no control over.  But like most kids, the moment passed in an instant and I moved on.

It must have been around this time when my interest in ballet started as a mild fascination with the concept of men in tights.  I was intrigued as to how grown males got away with wearing costumes that were made out of elaborate fabrics and decorated with sequins.  It was an art form that piqued my curiosity – I had to know more.  The graceful movement of ballet seemed very natural to me, so did dancing around a room with a bunch of girls.  But perhaps more intoxicating was the emotion and intensity.  It was like a fairytale brought to life; a fairytale that I could only dream of becoming a part.  But with three brothers, two of whom were heavily into baseball, you can imagine ballet was not high on the family approval rating.  Instead I was ushered down to a local park to try out for the junior baseball team.  When the team coach lined me up to face the ball, I swung and I missed, and missed again.  I was terrified.  Needless to say, that was the extent of it.  My brothers used to call me ‘sissy’ all the time, but I tired very easily of that.  As much as my brothers tried to force a square peg into a round hole, in terms of thrusting their macho image of what boys should do onto their little brother, it was a battle they were never going to win.

I loathed the idea of playing soccer or football, and finally agreed on the compromise of tennis.  It wasn’t a terribly popular sport at the time, but I liked the idea of getting a new racquet and the tennis club was close by so I decided to give it a go.  I took a class once a week for a while, but I wasn’t showing signs of becoming the next John Newcombe, nor was I enjoying it as much as I thought I might have.  At the same time my sister, Leanne, was making regular visits to the local roller rink with her high school girlfriends, Janine and Christine.  She was very popular amongst the lads, vibrant and very flirty.  My older brothers, Tony and Colin, would often go along as escorts (although I suspect they enjoyed the attention). Tony was a pretty big guy who was heavily in to weight training, a bit of a stud, and very popular amongst the girls.  Colin, although smaller than Tony, he was still a ‘one of the boys’ and I would have never picked a fight with him. I stuck to walking to the corner of our street to watch them strut off together, wishing it was me going with them.

It wasn’t until Christmas 1980, when I was ten years old, that I came upon a pair of the old strap-on style roller skates by chance.  We were just leaving our cousins home in Warrnambool when I happened to glance in their garage. The old skates had long ago been abandoned.  They were dilapidated and the bearings had seized, full of rust from sitting around in the dampness of the garage.  But to me they were a pair of magic shoes.  With some assistance from Leanne, I soon found myself gliding down the driveway.  I begged her to take me with her to the rink, but she was somewhat reluctant to include me in her evening socials, fearing I’d catch her snogging some lad, no doubt.  Instead she conceded to take me down to roll around on Saturday mornings.  It was enough – it was the start.

Even though the rink was small by any standards, it appeared enormous to me … and I loved it.   My younger brother, Shane, joined us showing complete fearlessness on wheels and was soon racing around like a formula one driver.  He is three years younger than I am, so at the time, we were both little horrors on wheels.  The concrete floor was completely smooth, coated with a urethane finish, not at all like gliding down the driveway with your sister.  It wasn’t until several hours, and numerous blisters, later that I felt relaxed enough to embrace the sensation beneath my feet.  After that it became religion to go skating on Saturday afternoons.  As fate would have it, my neighbor, John Hawkins, simultaneously became involved with the artistic side of the sport.  When I watched him skate I could see this was the closest activity to ballet I was likely to participate in, and quickly I knew I wanted to live, breathe and sleep skating.

Perhaps surprisingly, in High School I failed physical education.  I felt so intimidated by the other guys in my class I would regularly ‘forget’ my uniform unless I knew we were doing something where body movement was involved, such as trampolining or gymnastics.  It was only in these areas of sport I knew I could excel, and in team sports the larger ‘macho’ boys seemed to think this was a great excuse to lay into the more ‘slight’ guys at every opportunity that presented itself.

I started taking beginners lessons at the roller skating rink with a wild twenty ‘something’ year old who drove a funky Volkswagen beetle.  Her name was Lynda Flint and she soon became the guiding light in my world.  At the tender age of eleven I quickly developed a burning desire to show her I could do anything she wanted.  Lynda so impressed me with her outrageous personality and unique sense of style I was determined to win her undivided attention by outshining those who had been around the rink for some years and demanded the limelight.

Before long Lynda started to silently acknowledge that I was gathering momentum on wheels.  She promptly encouraged me to join the advanced class, which was a big step for me (or anyone else joining the class), as I instantly felt intimidated by the other skaters – who wouldn’t?  They all had expensive skates, club tracksuits, they knew one another and, naturally, they were all better than me.  But I wasn’t going to let that stop me!  It probably goes without saying that I had a teenage crush on Lynda.  Some days she would arrive at the rink in her boyfriend’s white TR7 and I used to imagine what it would be like to be dating her. Occasionally I would have arrived ahead of the class to wait outside for her.  I knew when I was there to greet her she would let me sit in the car while she unpacked her gear.  She’d always greet me with a huge smile and a friendly, “Hi Jayse”. Oh how I dreamt of driving away with her in that car and owning a rink where she could teach me all day long, all to myself. 

Skating soon became an everyday part of life for me.  Even in primary school I would ride my bike to the rink after school to train and take classes. But as my involvement in roller sports increased, so did the need for money.  I guess it stopped being a hobby when I escalated rapidly and to the point where new equipment and more lessons were necessary.  My fabulous parents could see how committed I was to the sport, and thankfully they made sacrifices to ensure I had everything I needed.  I can never truly thank them enough or repay them in full for encouraging and supporting me, especially as skating is one of the most unrecognized sports when it comes to any financial returns for being the best.  In fact over time it probably represents the house I have never been able to buy!

It was every skater's dream to have the best equipment available, especially mine, but paying more than $300 for a pair of roller skates in those days was outrageous.  My first pair of skates were a funky blue and yellow suede ‘disco inspired’ style, purchased from a toy store in Oakleigh.  Dare I say now, they’d be rather cool looking.  My neighbor, and by that time, good friend, John, had a pair of the ultimate, ‘Snyder’ skates, which to me were like gold.  I was so envious of him.  But it was through John I learned about the opportunities to compete at State, National and International levels.  Suddenly I had my very first real goal in life.  I was going to achieve my childhood dream after all … and be a world champion!

 

   

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