cover image Roller Skating for Gold

Roller Skating for Gold

David H. Lewis. Scarecrow Press, $58.3 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-8108-3048-6

""Why do the Olympics exclude roller skating?"" asks Lewis (Behind the Big Top) in his history of the sport, including speed skating, hockey and dancing on skates. Skates were developed in England in 1760, and ball-bearing wheels were introduced in the U.S. in the 1880s. Roller hockey began soon thereafter in the Midwest, speed skating started just before WWI and roller dancing arrived on the scene in the 1930s. Originally a pastime for the rich, roller skating fell into disfavor as roller rinks proliferated in seedy areas. The most damaging blow to its prestige, however, was the so-called Roller Derby, begun in Chicago in 1935, which turned violent after WWII and was put on TV. Lewis almost answers his own question about Olympic exclusion when he shows how inept the governing body of the U.S. Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating is. Given the book's narrow focus, it is unlikely to hold much interest for a general audience. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)