by: DAVID F. ASHTON - After competing at the World Roller Artistic Skating Championships, Charles Hamblin says his experience was perfect. The duck is one of his souvenirs of the trip.Not long after he turned 14 years old, Oaks Park Roller Rink competitive skater Charles Hamblin told THE BEE he was about to fulfill the dream of a lifetime – heading off to perform in Taipei City, Taiwan.

As reported on page one of the November BEE, Hamblin earned the right to compete in the 58th World Roller Artistic Skating Championships, having first won regional, then the national competitions.

At the time, he was concerned about raising enough money to support his trip, halfway around the world, for the competitions in China -- but he did make his goal, and he headed off for what he called a “fantastic” experience.

Upon his return, he beamed as he told THE BEE about donning his team warm-ups, and rolling out behind the American flag during the opening ceremony on November 8.

“In addition to skating your program [skating routine], we also get warm-ups,” Hamblin explained. “The judges are required to attend at least one of the practice sessions, so the judges can see you rehearse. You have to be on your toes all the time – you’re observed from the moment you step in the arena.”

He was classified as a 13-year-old, his age when he competed earlier in the year. “This made me the youngest in my event by four years.”

After years of training and rehearsal, it all boils down to performing about six minutes before the judges. “My program is two minutes, thirty seconds long. And, we also skate compulsories – set patterns – which takes about two minutes for each dance.”

Hamblin said he was a little concerned, when he realized another competitor – who skated directly after his performance – had chosen to use music from the same Broadway show, “Les Miserables”.

“I think my program was received fairly well, as was his. He skated to more like the ‘touchy-feely” stuff, and I skated to more of the ‘war-songs’. They actually complimented each other pretty well. It was really nice to find somebody else wasn’t using the exact same music.”

Although he didn’t take the gold medal, Hamblin said he was satisfied to come in fifth out of nine in his event. “I can skate at ‘Junior Worlds’ until I’m 19. I hope to be skating and competing for a long time.”

But it wasn’t all work, the teenager added!

“I got to meet the competitors from the other countries, and hang out with my friends from all over the United States, and make new friends from around the world,” he smiled.

Although some teams discouraged doing so, a fun activity was figuring out creative ways of exchanging team T-shirts and warm-ups with competitors from other countries – such as with his newly- made friends in Italy and Australia..

“I was there for eight days, so I got to look around a little. I went to a night market which was really fun – but we couldn't understand a word that they were saying! There is a lot of food, and lots of games.”

“I enjoy sushi, so we ate quite a bit of sushi,” Hamblin enthused. “By my favorite dish there was called ‘Hot Pot’. In the marketplace, you point out the ingredients you want in it, like the noodles, vegetables, and the like. The cook puts it in a strainer and then into a boiling pot of broth, and cooks it for you right in front of you. They put it in a bowl and scoop broth in and serve it to you while it is still boiling. It was ‘fast food’ – but way better.”

Thinking back over the entire experience, Hamblin said, “I went, expecting nothing; it’s my first World competition. Up until now, my goal was just to make it, so I don't care even if I came in last place. So, ending up in fifth place was really good for me.

“I have my teachers to thank, and everyone who helped with raising funds – everybody – for helping me get there. It was the experience of a lifetime,” he said. “If I could do it again all over, the exact same thing – I wouldn’t change a thing. It was amazing! Perfect!”

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