LaBriola's half-century of coaching has catapulted 170 couples of all ages to first place. He and his wife of 56 years, Irene, fell in love at a roller rink. So did Bob Fitzgerald's father and stepmother. "I want to win everything I teach, and they share that desire," LaBriola says of the Fitzgeralds.
For three months before the annual competition, the couple fly from their home near San Francisco to the Los Angeles area every weekend to practice with LaBriola, who owns the Fountain Valley Skating Center. Hotel stays augment the expense, but the rewards outweigh any hardships.
Journey to stay fit
The Fitzgeralds have five grandchildren, a bounty of roller-skating friends and many medals. But winning is about more than medals. It's about hard work — the journey on and off wheels to stay fit. During the off season, they turn to power walking and weight lifting while scaling back meal portions.
Their partnership works wonders, as do their individual talents. Flo played the piano as a child, and Bob still plays the trombone. "They're musically inclined," notes the older of their two children, Tracy Magstadt, 41, of Castro Valley, Calif., who skated from about ages 2 to 13. "Timing always came more naturally to them."
Sometimes the going gets rough on roller skates, but they're able to ride it out. "Flo will look at me and say, 'Just dance with me,' " Bob explains. "She draws in all the years of experience we've had together, reminds me how precious it is to dance together as a team, as husband and wife, and how lucky we are to have each other."
It's as if they'll be buried wearing their skates. "We both love this so much," he says. "I would like to be able to do it until the end."
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Susan Kreimer writes about health and medicine.