No one laughed when George Apdale took his United States roller-skating team to Vigo, Spain for the world championships. Rather, they admired his tenacity, for in the last 22 years Americans have consistently lost to Europeans and Asians.
No one laughed when the team returned Wednesday, either. The squad of 16 young men and women had captured three of the four events and the team title, stunning the roller-skating world.
“It was a bombshell, all right,” explained Apdale, president of the United States Amateur Roller Skating Association, “when you consider how casually this sport is taken by Americans and how important it is to Europeans.”
Apdale said that West Germany, which has won 33 of 44 world titles since 1947, and Yugoslavia, Britain, Italy, Japan and Spain put roller skating virtually on a level with soccer and cycling.
The U.S. victories were accomplished by four youngsters: Sheryl Trueman, 14 years the youngest member of the team, and Jack Courtney, 17, both of Marion, Indiana; Rita Smith, 18, of Bay Shore, L.I., and Donald Rudalewicz, 20, of Bridgeport, Conn.
Courtney, a high school senior who has competed in four world championships, won the men’s singles and then joined with Sheryl, whose father owns the skating rink, they practice on, to win the pairs title. Sheryl had her first taste of world competition at the age of 11.
Rudalewicz and Miss Smith then captured the crown in the dance division, clinching the team title. Rudalewicz, a sophomore at Norwalk State Technical College, commutes three hours a day to practice with Rita, who graduated from Brentwood High last year.
In the women’s singles, the only title not won by an American, Darlene Barile of Hartford came in fourth. Jack Becker of Bladensburg, Md. was the coach, his first year with the team. Apdale said that the upset victory was not only a tremendous boost for roller skating in the United States, but would also help this country in future competitions. “Our style is different from the Europeans and Asians,” he said, “especially in our use of music.”
The 1968 World Team was a combined team from the USARSA and RSROA
LADIES SINGLES - Susan Funch, Mary Sue Wilcox, and Darlene Barile
MENS SINGLES - William Boyd, Michael Jacques, Jack Courtney and Ronald Robovitsky
MIXED PAIRS - Jack Courtney & Sheryl Trueman, Michael Jacques & Nancy Johnson
Ronald & Gail Robovitsky
DANCE - Richard Horne & Jane Pankey, Donald Rudalewicz & Rita Smith,
Adolph Wacker & Linda Mottice, Robert Shaffer & Sherry Street Batt (listed but did not attend)
JUDGES - Mrs. Doris Brown, Ozzie Nelson
DELEGATE - George Apdale
TEAM COACH - Jack Becker