Roller Skater Focuses On Speed
Ashley Hinton, an accomplished skater, hopes to use her education to help children.
By Daylina Miller
USF.edu News Intern
TAMPA (June 8, 2010) -- It’s 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and outside the roller-skating rink it’s dark, save for a few lights strangling the remnants of the early morning. Inside, skaters of all ages, young and old, are gearing up for their practice, tossing around “that’s what she said” jokes and talking about their Farmville accounts on Facebook. They are lacing up their inline speed skates - skates that look like cartoonish rollerblades.
Some are just there for the exercise. Others? To rise to the rank of national champion. And then there is Ashley Hinton. Already an artistic roller skating world champion at the age of 21, Hinton has switched focus to compete for the title of world champion speed skater on wheels.
“I grew up in a skating rink. After my grandparents decided to leave the rink business, my parents decided to take it up. They owned the rink, so we lived there, literally lived there, and I grew up there so it was all I knew,” Hinton said. “I basically came out of the womb with skates on. My mom put them on me at nine months.”
Her grandparents owned Skate Odyssey North in Tampa during the peak skating years of the mid-70s to mid-80s. When they decided to retire from the skating rink business, her parents took it up, owning and living in two different skating rinks, the other one located in Lakeland.
“It was like selling cards to people on Valentine’s Day,” Hinton said. “Everybody wanted to skate so bad that it was stupid at the time to not go into the skating rink business.”
Hinton refers to herself as a “rink rat.” She lived in skating rinks, she works at a skating rink, and she spends most of her spare time there. So what is she pursuing her degree in?
Psychology, of course.
Speed skaters are not generally paid. They can get sponsors to cover travel costs and equipment, but the sport is mostly a labor of love, where one gets up long before the crack of dawn to practice several days a week. Hinton lives almost an hour away from the rink she practices in and works at, United Skates on North Armenia Avenue.
“Even if there was a career available in roller skating, my parents always beat it into my head that I had to have a backup plan,” Hinton said. “When I was like five I wanted to be an artist but then realized that I couldn't draw a stick figure. After that, I decided I wanted to be a doctor.”
Originally a biomedical science major, Hinton eventually tired of having her nose in an organic chemistry textbook all the time.
“I am a really big people person and see myself as caring so helping people has always been a goal of mine,” Hinton said. “Psychologists, even more so than physicians, get to really know and interact with their patients.”
Hinton would eventually like to pursue her doctorate in the field of clinical psychology but to do that, she has to have the research under her belt.
Her thesis project is focusing on trichotillomania in children, a compulsive behavior that causes a child to pull out his or her own body hair, resulting in noticeable bald spots. She is excited about her research because not much has been published on the subject, particularly in regards to juveniles.
In addition to achieving numerous national and world championship titles in artistic skating, and winning National Championships in the Senior Ladies (18-25yrs) division in her first year of speed skating, Hinton is on scholarship, has maintained a high grade point average (GPA), and is currently serving as the president of the Honors College Student Council.
She took a year break from roller skating after she won her world championship title in Australia in 2007 to focus on school and being a normal kid, “something that I had never gotten the chance to do in my life.”
When asked about her past in artistic skating, Hinton says that she misses the passion but not the politics. Speed skating is judged more objectively than figure skating is.
“Now if I cross the finish line first, I win. No questions,” Hinton said.
Competitions can be grueling. Skaters must pass through various levels of competition to earn a place in the final race.
“When it comes down to the end of the race, it doesn’t matter how you get across the line first. You just get across it. Clawing, scratching, kicking, pulling hair,” Hinton said. “Just kidding. You’re not actually allowed to touch the skaters or interfere with their ability to skate or win the race.”
There are no aspirations to go to the Olympics just yet. Currently, roller skating is not offered at the games and Hinton is not interested in switching over to ice skating to participate in them. She will, however, continue to skate her way through the competitions to amass the same levels of achievement in speed skating that she did in artistic skating.
“I have a degree of expectation for myself that I refuse to fall short of,” Hinton said.
Daylina Miller covers student life.