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Tallahassee teen speed skater makes World Team, competes for Olympics

At 8 years old, Paige Nodarse was invited to a roller derby bout by her afterschool teacher, who was a player for Tallahassee RollerGirls. This game would change Paige’s life.

“Paige was fascinated. She kept going ‘Mom, I want to try that.’ But it was scary as a mother, because it’s a physical sport,” said Paige’s mother, Katharine Wilson.

It wasn’t long before Paige was enrolled in classes at Tallahassee’s only local complex, Skateworld, where she learned the fundamentals of inline speed skating, a sport where athletes race competitively for the fastest times.

That was the beginning.

Thursday, the now 18-year-old will head to Colombia for three weeks, as she’s been invited to compete in the PanAm Qualifying Games, a program recognized by the Olympics, from Aug. 1-5. Upon her return to U.S., she is flying to Milton, Florida, where she will participate in the Team USA Residency Camp, before heading to Italy to compete in the World Skate Games, formerly known as the Jr. Olympics, in September.

Paige and her mother spoke with the Tallahassee Democrat for the first time in 2021, when she made the USA Jr. World team, as a sprint alternate, and had the opportunity to compete for a title in Ibagué, Colombia.

More: At 15-years-old, Tallahassee native Paige Nodarse competing with USA junior in-line team in Colombia

“It was kind of scary, because I knew those girls were faster than me,” Paige recalled. “But it was also kind of inspiring, because I realized how much better I could get.”

In her first world meet, Team USA placed fifth out of 32 countries. While she was eager to compete again the following year, Paige suffered from a whiplash concussion during team tryouts. Last year, she competed for three weeks on the Jr. World Team in Montecchio Maggiore, Italy.

Earning the second highest points overall and five medals in the World Class Senior Lady Division, the 18 and up class, Nodarse secured a spot Sr. World Team to compete in Italy once again this September.

Training for a world stage

Early on, her passion for the sport was undeniable, and she quickly outgrew the Tallahassee rink. Paige’s parents knew that if she was going to be real competition for the girls across the globe, she would have to leave home for more intense training. 

“She needed very specific coaching to get to a certain level, which they didn’t offer locally,” Wilson said. “Then they (Skateworld) closed the program down. She actually trained in Orlando for a couple of years. We would drive four hours for training and four hours home. That’s one of the reasons she started homeschooling.”

In her formative years, Paige attended Roberts Elementary School and Montford Middle School. But the flexibility of online school through Florida Virtual School has allowed her to spend a few months every year in Colombia training with her coaches, American World Champion Darian Oneil-Orozco and her husband, Colombian World Champion Kmilo Orozco, who have mentored Paige since she was 13.

The Orozcos sponsor Paige’s training lessons and equipment. Her travel expenses are covered by her grandfather, Dr. Keith Wilson, who competed in the 1960 Rome Olympics for Team Canada’s sailing team.

While Paige doesn’t earn money for her wins, her father, Alfredo Nodarse, works as the assistant store manager at Home Depot, and her mom, Wilson, is her full-time manager and travel coach.

When she’s back home in the capital, Paige finds herself at Broadmoor Pond Park practicing her speed skating.

Her high-speeds, reaching over 20 miles per hour, often attracts the attention of onlookers. On a recent afternoon, a Spanish-speaking man approached Paige and her mother, using a fast-motion hand gesture to convey how impressively fast she was despite the language barrier.

After skating practice, Paige either goes cycling or to workout at the gym. In Colombia, her days start by going to the gym first thing in the morning for an hour or two, followed by an hour of skating. She takes time in the middle of the day to rest, before hopping back on wheels for two hours in the evening. 

“It’s much more intense over there,” Wilson said. “Paige was telling me, there are kids down there whose entire lives revolve around speed skating. It’s a huge sport down there, just like how baseball, basketball and football are in the states. They take it very seriously.”

Paige’s success on the junior and senior levels in the USA has instilled confidence, preparing her for the games in Italy. Though, she acknowledges that she is up against some tough competitors.

“I’m kind of calm about it now, because I’ve had so much international experience that when I race in the USA, it’s kind of easy,” she said. “But internationally, it’s a little bit different because I’m racing lots of world champions. I’ll race skaters that have, like, 10 world champion titles under their belt. So sometimes it’s a little intimidating.”

This year will be the first that she competes for a world title at the senior level.

To follow Nodarse’s speed skating journey, follow Flo-Co SkaterMom on Facebook. Democrat Writer Mycah Brown can be reached at [email protected].

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