Sterling (United States) (AFP) -
Adrienne Schreiber curls down her lower lip to reveal "SF1" inked in
black -- a tattoo celebrating Scare Force One, a tribe of fierce Washington
women on roller skates.
When they get together,
they push, shove and -- above all -- win.
and scientists, the women who compete in roller derby -- an American game that
is quickly gaining traction abroad -- come from all walks of life.
But to take part is not
merely to don skates and score points.
On a recent Saturday
afternoon in a sportsplex in Sterling, Virginia, a suburb of the US capital,
the DC All-Stars A team -- drawn from the area’s four teams including Scare
Force One -- competed against the Vixens from Canada's Rideau Valley Roller
This is a full-contact
sport with jostling, bumping and hitting -- so long as it isn't done with the
elbows, forearm, hands, head or lower legs.
It is not for the faint
of heart or spirit.
As each team of five
races around the track, the "jammer" pushes ahead of the pack in an
attempt to lap the other team's players. After an initial pass, points are
scored with each opposing player the jammer passes.
Team-themed tattoos and
frequent injuries are common, as are tough personalities and derby pseudonyms.
Condoleezza Slice and Nasty Pelosi -- puns on the names of two of Washington's
most powerful women -- play in the area.
Schreiber -- who last year opened Washington's first-ever derby shop, Department
of Skate -- competes under the name Velocityraptor.
- From Mexico to
Roller derby, which got
its start in 1930s Chicago, has had peaks and valleys of popularity, and a
brief period in the 1970s full of theatrical stunts and storylines similar to
those in professional wrestling.
"I think women
really stuck with derby because it was an early sport where they were on the
same track as men," said James Vannurden, curator of the National Museum
of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Women's Flat Track
Derby Association (WFTDA), the governing body under which many teams operate,
had just a couple dozen leagues when it began 10 years ago, all of them in the
Today, there are 243
full-member leagues, according to WFTDA public relations manager Kali Schumitz.
The organization also has 101 apprentice leagues that are training to join the
And until just a few
years ago, non-American teams were rare.
But WFTDA leagues now
exist in South America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The website
derbyroster.com counts 1,307 women’s flat-track leagues worldwide, from Mexico
Sister Disaster, 38,
plays on the Rideau Valley team from Ottawa, which beat Washington 180 to 165.
Her real name is Lauren Hart.
"We travel a lot,
by nature of being in Canada. There are fewer leagues for us to play there, so
we have to come to the States," she said.
Schumitz, a journalist
who competes in Washington's DC Rollergirls league under the name Lois Slain,
says the sport is nevertheless expanding quickly overseas.
"Right now, most
of our growth is outside the US. If you look at the makeup of the apprentice
leagues, there's a much higher percentage of non-US leagues," she said.
- Stars, stripes and
In December, the
sport's second-ever World Cup will take place in Dallas, Texas, with 30
countries expected to participate.
Just 13 countries
participated in the 2011 event, with the United States dominating and Canada,
England, Australia and Finland rounding out the top five.
Leading Team France
will be Jessica Poingt, a 26-year-old who lives in Washington and skates for
the DC Rollergirls under the name Dual Hitizen.
"I don't really
have the level for the whole US team -- but for the French team, it's so much
fun to play with them and I love it -- and there I have the level for it,"
For Yankee Scandal, a
35-year-old government fish biologist, "It's just really fun to go out
there and skate hard and hit people. There's nothing like it."
Scandal, whose real name
is Holly Frank, stands patiently with pigtail braids and a human heart tattooed
on her right bicep. Inked on its ventricles are the stars and stripes of
Washington's city flag, an homage to the DC All-Stars team for which she
"Until my knees
give out, I'll keep doing this," she says.
Photos courtesy of Roller Derby on Film and John Hesse