The Need for Speed

Candy-colored stage lights spin and Western pop music pulsates, sending bass beats rebounding between the tin roof and the concrete skating rink floor.

The potent odor of fried food wafts out of the snack bar, mixing with the smell of sweaty skaters and the salty-sweet popcorn cooked just outside the movie theater next door.

A vibrant microcosm of youth culture, the Sorya Skating Sport Center has grown into a popular gathering place for teenagers, children and families since it opened two years ago.

The Rollerbladers range in ability, with some groups of kids clutching and clinging to one another, ankles wobbling, as they lurch around the ring. Others are capable of twists, turns and jumps worthy of a Tony Hawk video.

Falls are frequent. But so are spectacular jumps off ramps built into the skating rink. The best Rollerbladers are capable of drawing frequent oohs and aahs from both fellow skaters and the attentive crowd of pretty, giggling girls.

Dy Vanthy, 19, is one such talented teen, though he wasn’t always so good. When he first started Rollerblading he often stumbled, hurting his knees and hands, he said.

But two weeks in, he could stay upright, and another several months later he could skate forwards and backwards with speed. For the past six months, Dy Vanthy has been learning how to do fancy jumps and poses off the ramps.

“I feel happy now that I am good at it because sometimes I am even asked to be a teacher, too,” the 10th grade student said. “My brother also knows how to skate, but I am more marvelous than him.”

It’s not as easy for everyone.

Hak Socheat, 18, said Rollerblading is fun to try, but she also admits that the potential for injuries is a little scary.

“I like to watch the skaters because it looks wonderful,” she said. “But I am afraid of Rollerblading because I fall and hurt my knees.”

The rink attracts thousands of people a week, according to owner Hun Somsen Udom. He estimates that as many as 4,000 people come during the week, and an additional 9,000 to 12,000 flock to the rink during the weekends.

Located on the top floor of the Sorya Shopping Center on Street 63, the skating center is open from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm, seven days a week.

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