His in-line skates have taken him from a rink in south Arlington to many countries across the world. And someday Michael Ringer Jr. might just skate himself all the way to the Winter Olympics.
Ringer, 22, is a world-class in-line skater from Cedar Hill who has been a member of the Arlington-based DFW Speed Skating team for 15 years. That sounds like a long time to do anything, but to hear Ringer tell it, he’s still regarded as the young upstart among his peers at the top world-class level.
“I’m considered a baby,” said Ringer, who has been competing internationally at the world-class level for more than five years. “I’m a young sprinter.”
This “baby” on Rollerblades has fast become one of in-line skating’s top outdoor sprinters. Ringer, who is strong but slender at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, last week was in Puebla, Mexico, competing in the Pan American Olympic Festival. The high-level competition featured top in-line competitors from 10 countries, including the United States and Canada.
“It’s my first time in Mexico,” he said by cellphone in Puebla during a break in training. “You’re meeting people from all over the world.”
The cultural enrichment is one of the great benefits of the sport, he said, but the downside is the travel can be rather expensive. Unlike more traditional U.S. spectator sports, Ringer’s elite status in inline skating doesn’t lead to a payday. Sure, he has sponsors to help cover the costs of equipment and apparel, but the travel is up to him. He’s doing an online campaign to raise enough money to make it to Argentina in November to represent Team USA in the 2014 World Championship.
“In the ’90s and early 2000s, inline was growing a lot,” Ringer said. “But this sport in America isn’t like football or basketball. Ice is more known than in-line racing. But in-line is much bigger in other parts of the world.”
Ringer relies on the ice analogy to explain his sport to those who are unaware of competitive in-line skating. “It’s just like what Apollo [Ono] does on ice, but it’s Rollerblades,” Ringer said.
The young skater could soon become more like Apollo. Ringer’s considering a move to Milwaukee or Salt Lake City in the near future to try to become an elite speed skater on ice. “I skated [on ice] as a teen, but to train with the top-caliber athletes, you have to move to one of those two places,” Ringer said.
For now, though, the Rollerblades beckon. After all, despite his age, Ringer’s already proven to be faster than one of the best competitors he’s ever faced. Last year, he earned a gold medal in the 500m, along with a silver medal and two bronzes in other events, at the U.S. qualifying meet for the 2013 World Championship. In winning the gold, Ringer beat out a former World Champion.
“To be able to beat the world champion, that was a big moment in my career,” Ringer said.
Although Ringer set some personal-best times at the 2013 World Championship in Belgium, he wasn’t able to add any golds to his medal collection. “It was a big challenge,” he said. “But it was an eye-opener for me.”