Felix Rijhnen is a 27-year-old inline speed skater from Darmstadt, Germany. This year he achieved his life long goal and became World Champion at the 2017 World Roller Games in Nanjing, China in the 10,000m points race.
What is your current setup? (boots, frames, bearings, wheels) What gear do you bring with you to a race?
Powerslide Custom Boots made by Segio Mc Cargo. 110mm and 125mm Matter wheels with Wicked Swiss bearings. Always with me at races is my Wind helmet and my Hunter racesuit.
What are your training habits? How many hours do you skate on your practice days?
I’m usually training twice a day, 6 days a week and collect about 20-25 hours weekly. In a hard block of training I get up to 500km but not all of them are on skates.
Do you train more inside or outside?
Whenever possible outside!
Do you prefer training alone or with other athletes?
In a group it’s always more fun and you can share the pain and suffering which makes it easier. I don’t mind a lonely skate or bike ride from time to time to clear my head though.
What kind of workouts do you do outside of skating?
I do a lot of road cycling and also train in the gym.
What kind of diet do you stick to?
My main goal is to fuel with high quality foods according to my training or racing schedule. That means when there is a day with 5 or 6 hours of training I eat a lot and on easy days I try to cut it down a bit.
What are the favorite places skating has taken you?
I’ve seen some pretty nice spots but one of the most beautiful ones has to be the Portuguese island Madeira, which has a nice banked track right next to the ocean.
Any points races, on track or road.
Have ever you tried any other kind of inline skating such as free skating or slalom?
As a kid I always enjoyed skating on ramps, jumping down stairs and gave half pipes a go. I do remember using every brake between my races in Groß-Gerau to jump around in the skate park right next to the track. My parents were always scared I’d bend my frames.
Do you enjoy watching any other kinds of skating?
Yes definitely! It’s a great thing to see kids have pure joy in their eyes from skating around a simple car park.
How do you deal with lower back pain on long skates?
I’m quite lucky and don’t really have too much trouble with my back while skating. I only feel it when I haven’t skated for a while and the more I do it the better it gets. Best advice: Never stop skating!
How do you align your frame?
Pretty centered on the back and a bit more to the inside in the front.
What made you want to try your hand at competitive ice speed skating?
I’ve seen how well guys like Shane Dobbin, Pascal Briand and Alexis Contin did on ice and thought I want to give it a go myself.
How difficult was the transition from inline skates to ice skates?
It’s definitely not an easy one. It’s a different sport and you have to learn the right technique from scratch. The strong engine most skaters have helps quite a bit.
What is the last ice speed skating competition you competed in?
That was a regional race on my outdoor “home rink” in Frankfurt, where I tried to break the track record. It didn’t go well – too much snow and wind…I might need to go again!
What is your greatest personal achievement? What is your fondest memory in skating?
My greatest achievement has to be the world title in Nanjing a couple of weeks back. I’ve worked over 20 years for this moment and it was very emotional to be able to share it with Matthias, Jürgen and Scott who supported me for so many years along the way.
How long do you expect to skate, professionally and recreationally?
I just had my most successful year ever and don’t really want to think about stopping now. I guess as long as I’m competitive and can combine the sport with my career I’ll keep on going. I believe skating will always have a place in my life and imagine myself to always be on some sort of wheels.
Do you skate for recreation or transportation much?
I use my skates as a transportation tool regularly. I’m not the biggest fan of public transportation so most of the time it’s easier for me to jump into my skates and beat the traffic.
What skaters inspired you when you first started?
There were some along my youth but I guess the biggest inspiration was Ralf Göthling, the best long distance skater from my home town club. I always admired him for his hawk and spent many hours practicing my own one. Still wins me races nowadays.
Who are you favorite skaters today?
Probably my own teammates. I love racing together with these boys and forming a unit which is hard to beat. The way we make sacrifices for each other and our ability to be happy about each others wins is very special to me.
What motivates you?
I love to win and hate to lose.
How long have you been skating for Powerslide? How did you first get put on the team?
I got my first little sponsoring package which was a skinsuit and a set of wheels in 2005. From 2007 on I was officially member of the German Powerslide Team and later made it into the World Team. Jürgen Pfitzner was the first one who believed in me at that time and I was able to remind him of that right after I won Worlds – pretty special!
What do your sponsors ask of you?
Basically everything comes down to do my best in representing the brand not only as a team skater but also as a brand ambassador at races, clinics, events, social media and so on. All of this works best when I skate fast so in the end I need to get myself into the best possible shape as well.
Were there certain moments in your development when you got substantially faster or were all your improvements gradual over time?
Looking back I think it was a pretty gradual development without huge jumps but also without plateaus of stagnation. Probably the most important decision was when Scott Arlidge started to coach me from 2015 on. That year I started winning medals at the biggest international championships.
What has been the most interesting or challenging thing about skating for you lately? Like is there anything you’ve been working on?
I would say the constant surge to improve our own product is both a very challenging but also rewarding thing. It’s not easy and takes a lot of training and testing but it’s great when you get to improve skates, wheels, frames and so on and also other people get to enjoy skating more or go faster because of that.
What's it like to crash at such a high speed?
Mainly painful. In the end usually the crash itself isn’t too bad. It’s the stuff afterwards that really pisses you off. The first shower, cleaning the wounds, when the bedsheet sticks to you after you wake up and all of this. Trust me it’s better you stay upright!
How do you deal with cars when skating on the street?
I try to avoid busy roads as much as possible but most of the time I get along well with them. I had only one bad experience were a driver used his car to push me into a ditch. I stayed upright and the car had no more side mirror…
What do you think about during a race?
Most of the time I’m really in the zone and just think about my next move or when to attack, where to start the sprint and stuff like that.
What do you think when you see people skating with bad technique?
That they should come to one of my clinics.
How competitive are you with Bart Swings?
It depends if we race for Powerslide or our national team. When we race for our country we both want to win and therefore race against each other. For me it’s important that we keep it like that and still are friends off the track. We know that both of us profit when we train together and make each other stronger.
How do you see the future of the sport and what would you recommend doing to attract more people into inline skating?
I hope for another skating boom like in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and would love to be a part of it. I think the main goal should be to get as many people as possible on skates and therefore work on the image of skating. It’s super important to educate the people on how to use skates for a great workout for both muscles and cardio fitness at the same time. I believe that’s the unique selling point of our sport and should be the center of marketing. With our ROLLEROBICS campaign we started to push into that direction but there is a lot more that can and needs to be done.
Interview by Jan Eric Welch
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