A competitive sport that has taken three forms, as in ice skating: speed roller skating; figure roller skating; and roller dancing. The four-wheel roller skate was invented by James L. Plimpton (1828–1911), who opened the first rink in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, in 1866, initially for ice skaters to practise off-ice. Technological advances such as the ball-bearing skate (1884) gave the activity a momentum of its own, and its combination of speed, performance, and display attracted large numbers of participants in the USA and Britain in the years preceding World War I. Speed skating and figure skating world championships were held (in Italy and Germany) in 1937, and roller dancing championships in the USA in 1947. The competitive dimension of roller skating has been undermined by further technological and design-led changes, the more individualized and performative activity of roller booting superseding the more old-fashioned look and style of the roller skater. See also roller hockey.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.