When the dust settled, and the final teams skated away from the Bunker in Toronto; when the bleachers were wheeled out, the lights and scaffolding broken down, and the flags pulled from the wall; when the echo of the final whistle of the final bout of the inaugural Roller Derby World Cup finally faded away, little remained in the Bunker that would give away the fact that one of the most important events in a sport’s young history had just occurred there. There were just scraps: empty beer cans, torn laces, worn toe stops. And memories, of course.
A week before the World Cup began, the Bunker did not look like a location ready to hold an international sporting event. Even on the opening day murmurs could be heard about the appropriateness of the facility, a massive Cold War munitions bunker in the middle of a vast sprawl of old warehouses and hangars that were once part of a Canadian Air Force based just north of Toronto. Those used to the stadiums that were often the venues in WFTDA’s Big 5, were at first taken aback by the underground feel of the space: its quirks and eccentricities. But any doubts were erased when the Stars and Stripes took to Track 1 on Thursday night for the Team USA split-squad scrimmage (won 109-108 by the Stars). The energy from the fans and other teams lining the track, within such proximity to the biggest names in the game, was palpable; it was electric and inspiring, and the energy owed a lot to the intimate setting of the unique venue. By the time Ireland and Finland closed out Friday’s games with one of the more entertaining bouts of the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup (a 148-134 victory for Finland), there was no question that the Bunker had sold itself to the fans.
As much as it has been exciting to see the WFTDA playoffs in large stadiums, outside of the Championships the attendance at the Regional playoffs has been sparse which has made the stadiums look cold and empty (despite the number of devoted fans there). The Bunker, on the other hand, was constantly packed for four days, with fans feeding off of each other’s energy and the general euphoria of being at a tournament of this magnitude. Despite the blowouts and the disparity of the countries involved, every bout on each track was lined with loud, adoring fans. Plus, it gave the event a small and exciting start, something that can be built upon in the future.
There was never any doubt that Team USA was going to capture this first ever world cup, but the dominance with which they accomplished the feat was potentially surprising (even after three days of crushing victories, their 532-4 semifinal victory over Australia was somewhat shocking). They are playing the sport in a completely different stratosphere than any of the other countries, but at the very least, Canada showed that there are countries playing the same game. Team USA raised the bar, showed the potential heights of the game: it is now the world’s responsibility to rise up to it.
Although expected to be one of the top countries, Australia was still one of the surprises of the tournament. In the first round they handled another pre-tournament favourite Germany with relative ease (136-53) before distancing themselves from eventual fifth place finisher Finland, 179-29. In terms of heart and swagger, New Zealand impressed, facing off against Team USA twice and surviving to tell the tale, while defeating Germany in a thrilling elimination game that knocked the Germans out of the top eight. Finland was a true surprise in the tournament, struggling in the preliminary round before taking out Ireland in that stunning elimination bout to advance to the quarterfinals; their victory for fifth place over Sweden in a Scandinavian showdown was inspiring.
But the host nation impressed most of all. 3-0 in the preliminary round (defeating France, Sweden and Brazil by a combined score of 848-50), they destroyed Finland in the quarterfinals (499-31) before facing off against their expected rivals for second place, Team England. Lead by a strong, experienced core of skaters that included pivots 8 Mean Wheeler and Jess Bandit, jammers Iron Wench, Luludemon and Georgia W. Tush, offensive blockers Windigo and Smach Daddy, defensive closers Lil Mama, Bone Machine and Semi Precious (who, despite begin a late addition to the team, was a force for the Canadians), and triple threat Beretta Lynch, the Canadians kept their cool and, more importantly, maintained their discipline in a thrilling semi-final against England. They pulled ahead early and held on in a tight one, only truly closing out the game definitively in the waning minutes for a 161-90 victory and a guaranteed silver medal. Despite some impressive pack performances in the final from 8 Mean, Boner, Windigo and tournament MVP Smack Daddy, and some exceptional jamming from Iron Wench (5 leads for a 50% lead percentage) and Luludemon (18 points total and a pretty remarkable 2.5 points per jam), they ran into the impenetrable wall that was Team USA. Canada seemed content to hold USA to fewer points than anyone else and managed to score more points against them than all of their previous opponents combined, all in all, an impressive performance.
This tournament was an experiment in real time that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this sport has gone global; that this sport is important, more important than just a game. That the women out there on the track have accomplished something so much larger than each individual skater, than each team. The skaters at the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup have not only become ambassadors of their game, but they’ve become leaders, the front line of an unprecedented movement of women in sports. They’ve given the women of the world a unique voice in a chorus of oh-so-similar sports voices, created an opportunity where none existed, built a world-wide phenomenon that spreads daily and, most importantly of all, an international sport to call their own.
***For game-by-game recaps, please visit DNN to read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s bout analysis.
***To order DVDs of the 2011 Roller Derby World Cup (singles or sets) visit rollerderbyworldcup.com.
THE FINAL STANDINGS (and first ever flat track roller derby International rankings)
1. USA (5-0)
2. Canada (5-1)
3. England (4-1)
4. Australia (4-2)
5. Finland (3-3)
6. Sweden (4-3)
7. France (3-4)
8. New Zealand (2-4)
9. Germany (3-2)
10. Ireland (2-3)
11. Scotland (2-3)
12. Brazil (0-6)
13. Argentina (0-4)
THE ALL-WORLD TEAM
Australia: Short Stop
Canada: Iron Wench
England: Kamikaze Kitten
Finland: Kata Strofi
France: Francey Pants
Germany: Heavy Rotation
Ireland: Zola Blood
New Zealand: Skate the Muss
Scotland: Marla Mayhem
Sweden: Swede Hurt
USA: Joy Collision
Tournament MVP: Smack Daddy (Canada)
It hasn’t taken many years for the sport to explode within America… but I wonder how many years it will take before the Derby World Cup becomes an actual competition instead of an exhibition of the globalization of derby?
Exciting to see the world-wide derby love, but it’s obvious that we’re not ready for the Olympics if the competition at the international level is so lopsided.
I couldn’t agree more.
However, if we don’t start now, we’ll never get there! And this weekend was as good a start as I could imagine.
I think there is a general lack of patience in the derby community for this kind of change. I think, realistically, we’re still quite a few years off from any Olympics.
Wench getting out of the pack for the first time at the finals almost made me cry… she looked so proud!!!!
Thank you Derby Nerd for the refresh. Such good memories from this oh so important weekend.
Derby love from Quebec City
Nice recap, DN, as usual. Your thorough documentation is truly needed especially given the feedback I’ve heard that it didn’t translate on to the screen.
We’re gettin there! I think as much as people remember Dust Devil ’06 being… grassroots… the first WC is similar and will transform light years in just a short time.