From the Toronto Star “The Inaugural World Cup of Women’s Roller Derby Sparks Olympic Hopes.”
By: Mary Ormsby
The inaugural World Cup of women’s flat-track roller derby comes to Toronto on Thursday, so hold on to your helmet panties (stay with us here). A jammer like Calgary’s Gunpowder Gertie — who once weighed 260 pounds — could land in your lap if you’re brave enough to sit in the “suicide seats.”
After the World Cup? These rolleristas want to land in the Olympics.
“It is a really aggressive sport and we are athletes,” says 29-year-old Kayla Wilkins — a.k.a. Brim Stone, a Team Canada co-captain who hopes an Olympic Games gig is in her derby future.
“You need your body to be in really good shape to prevent injuries.”
Just five-foot-one and not quite 120 pounds, the lithe Haliburton, Ont., skater will block for Team Canada’s point-scoring jammers like Gertie — identified as a jammer by the removable mesh helmet “panty” with a star on it — while trying to impede rival jammers.
“I’m pretty small, especially for roller derby, but I can hold my own,” says Wilkins, whose injuries have included bruises, abrasions and muscle pulls.
Canada is one of 13 World Cup countries (yes, 13 — it’s not a typo) competing for derby dominance in The Bunker at Downsview Park. The former munitions warehouse is large enough for two tracks — each oval and about the size of a hockey pad — to run simultaneous hour-long “bouts” split into 30-minute halves.
The grandstand and the aforementioned suicide seats at smack level hold about 1,500 spectators. Organizers report the four-day competition is sold out, tickets priced from $20 to $125 plucked clean a week before the start.
Skaters hope that in establishing regular World Cup competition, roller derby will gain credibility in the mainstream sporting culture — and possibly Olympic inclusion.