Originally posted at Croydon Roller Derby
Although we’re incredibly excited to play One Love Roller Dolls, today marks the end of an era for CRD – our beloved Gin Atomic is leaving us to join the Brighton Rockers.
Whether you’ve followed CRD’s progress from its humble beginnings on St George’s Walk, or whether you’ve only been to one of our games, you’ll know the name Gin Atomic. She’s impossible to miss. Physically, she towers above most players – my chest comes just about level with her hip when we’re both on skates – and no doubt you’ll have seen her trademark dripping eye make-up, brightly-coloured hair, and jaw you could sharpen a knife on.
On track, she’s a fast and unforgiving jammer. She smashes into walls, sending girls flying into the next county – often our oppositions know that resistance is futile and just have to sigh sadly as she sails by, casually thumping the other jammer off the track in her mission to rack up points. From experience, she is a terrifying blocker. Very often Gin’s hip is the last thing you see before you wake up in hospital; even the fiercest jammers, having almost broken out the front of the pack, will turn to see the Angel of the North ready to use your sternum as a toothpick. (A tip for getting past her, by the way: point to an empty space on the track and say “DOGGY.” She can’t help but turn to look.)
Despite her fearsome reputation, Gin Atomic aka Hayley Ann Shepherd is really very lovely. She’s spent the last couple of years coaching our B-team to their current, almost-undefeated status, and back when I was in Fresh Meat training she spent a whole day traipsing round Ikea car park teaching me how to transition. She’s endlessly patient, relentlessly encouraging, and a super-smart derby player – there’s almost nothing she doesn’t know about the game. Although she’s a strong advocate of tough love ‘n’ rough hugs, you can easily win her heart with fruity cider and a game of Tekken, and if she senses you’re having a bad day she’ll stomp over and order you to ‘come ‘n ‘ave a cuddle’.
Any derby girl knows that leaving your team for pastures new is just as exciting and painful as leaving home. Gin relocated to Brighton almost two years ago and has been making the commute to training twice a week, every week, for a long time. She comes to practice when she’s tired, when she’s ill, and even when we tell her not to. Although it breaks our hearts to walk her down the aisle towards BRRD, we know it’s for the best. It just means that next time we play Brighton, we’ll have to kick her butt extra hard!
On behalf of every single member of the league, thank you for being constantly inspiring and badass for all these years. Always remember that you have a family in Croydon, and we love you whatever colour you’re in.
Photos courtesy of John Hesse