Toronto hosts first-ever Roller Derby World Cup
Published Saturday, December 3, 2011 5:54PM EST
Toronto's Downsview Park is taking on an international flair this weekend, and not just at the multi-cultural food court. The first-ever Roller Derby World is being held at the federally owned complex, featuring 13 teams from across the world and a sell-out crowd of keen fans.
Conceived by American derby magazine Blood and Thunder and hosted by local league Toronto Roller Derby, the event runs from Thursday to Sunday, with 13 teams vying for the world title.
On Saturday, Team Canada beat out Finland 499-31 and will move onto semi-finals on Sunday. The team is predicted to finish in second or third, having already posted sizable wins against France and Sweden.
With the most experience playing the sport, Team USA has emerged as a clear favourite, blowing out New Zealand 377-8 in a Thursday game and dominating Scotland on Friday.
The sharp disparity between teams is reflective of the path the fledgling sport has taken as it spreads around the world. The game's modern renaissance began in the United States in the early 2000s, with leagues forming in Canada and the United Kingdom in the ensuing years.
Since then, it has exploded to 20 countries, but many only in the past two years, following the popularity of Ellen Page derby movie "Whip It."
"When I first started in 2003, there were fewer than 200 of us," Team USA skater Nadia "Smarty Pants" Kean told CTV News Channel on Friday. "Now there's more than 20,000 in the world."
Unlike its sports-entertainment predecessors from the 1930s to the 1980s, the modern game is a legitimate sport that combines speed, agility and plenty of body checks. It's played by ten skaters at a time, moving counter-clockwise around a flat track. Each team's jammer -- the point scoring position -- attempts to earn points by passing players on the opposing team while remaining within the track boundaries. Each time a jammer passes the hips of an opposing player, she scores a point.
For their part, blockers try to stop the opposing jammer by knocking her down or getting in her way, while also helping their own jammer by clearing opposing blockers from her path.
While mainly played by women above the age of 18, the game has also found some new constituencies in recent years.
"We now have little girls' roller derby leagues and men are also playing the sport," said Kean. "It's a great way to strengthen the body and the brain."