If you've seen the film 'Whip It' you'll know all about roller derby. But for those who haven't, the sport is basically a roller skate race between two teams of women. It is fast becoming a very popular sport with over 400 leagues currently running around the world, and a league has just started in Joburg.
Flat Track Roller Derby is a full-contact female sport that is played on quad roller skates. The game consists of two rounds in which two teams skate around an oval track. Each team is made up of 5 players: 1 jammer (point scorer), 3 blockers, and 1 pivot (last defence). Jammers can be identified by the stars on their helmets.
The aim of the sport is for the jammer to lap the opposing team. Each time the jammer laps an opponent, a point is scored. Blockers try to slow down the opponent's jammer, and they can use shoulder or hip checks to slow the jammer down. Meanwhile the blockers and pivot will also try and create space for their own jammer to pass.
Roller derby started in 1935 when Leo Seltzer began what was at first an endurance race. Seltzer soon noticed that fans enjoyed seeing crashes and collisions, and decided to make the sport more of a physical contest. Fans loved it and the sport quickly gained popularity drawing thousands of spectators and making legends out of its tough competitors.
In 1970 popularity began to wane and roller derby was closed. It was only in 2001 that a group of women in Austin, Texas resurrected the sport. Roller derby shifts the focus to female empowerment and offers women an opportunity to showcase their athleticism. The sport is fairly theatrical and although the hits are real there is a sense of fun and camaraderie.
A roller derby has started in Johannesburg called C-Max and currently has 81 members and 2 teams. So far they have held two roller derbies at Wembley Stadium in Turffontein. C-Max is still looking for new members and they run a 5-week course called the Fresh Meat program where you learn all the necessary skills to become a roller derby skater. For more information you can go to http://www.cmaxrollerderby.co.za/.