Calling the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup

It took nearly six years, but this year, I found myself overseas among some of the world’s most inspiring and resilient athletes representing their nations for several days of fierce competition. Was I at the Winter Olympics? HELL NO! I was in Manchester, UK, in February for the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup!

Of course, I didn’t compete (I’m fragile); however, I did represent the United States as a broadcaster, live announcer and producer for the four-day event. Thirty-eight nations competed with their all-star teams to take home the third-ever World Cup.  I have never been more excited and proud to be part of one of the fastest growing sports in the world.

crim1To put it in perspective, the first World Cup was held in Toronto in 2011 and only had 13 nations. The second, in Dallas in 2014, expanded to 30 nations. This year featured newcomers that made statements in their own right about all-women athletic teams and cultural identity. Teams such as Team Iran and Team Philippines made a great show. Team Korea refused to be identified by North or South as they symbolized unification in cultural spirit. When talking about spirit, the standout team was Team Indigenous, composed of “First Nations and Indigenous” skaters from around the world. Also given the chance to show off their skills were Team Baltic and Team Israel. Another first was an exhibition scrimmage of junior derby stars from Europe who competed just before the final two bouts.

That seems like a lot to take in, but that’s nothing compared to the ever-present energy that rolled around the four flat tracks at the Event City center. Many fans came in their nation’s colors or cosplaying as iconic characters, and celebrated every moment regardless of the size of  the accomplishment. Within the swarming masses were notables and future stars of the sport who were all there to watch and cheer on fan-favorites and underdogs alike.

Anyone else could rave about the jam highlights and epic bouts, but what many didn’t see were the little things hidden between the various international vendors and blaring officials’ whistles. Instead of wearing stars on their helmet covers, jammers would wear their nation’s symbol (Canadian maple leaf, Irish shamrock, Romanian bat, etc.). Instead of longer lines at the ladies’ room, bathrooms were comfortably integrated. Instead of one local cuisine, various snacks and foods were brought by teams, officials, announcers and volunteers for everyone to try.

Speaking of announcers, the team of more than 40 voices and personalities became quite the machine. For two months prior, we got to know each other online. We educated one another in pronunciation and dialects, shared tips for saving our voices and quickly became a family — one that continues to keep in touch daily.

Most nights, all the staff, officials and skaters would meet in the hotel lounges and discuss everything from derby to more derby over drinks. I told myself I wouldn’t bring up politics, crim2especially as a representative of a country with a not too favorable leader. But inevitably others started the serious conversations and every talk was very light-hearted and filled with laughter. I expected my new friends to be well-educated about the US, but I was astonished by how detailed their knowledge was about our health care system, our educational institutions and our domestic and foreign policies, right down to naming all those in charge of each. I was surprised to discover who is really paying attention and how everything we do affects people of other nations — which includes serving as a source of inspiration.

That inspiration couldn’t have been more present in the air than during the championship bout between the USA and Australia. Every seat and bit of available floor space around the center track was taken, and I was given the honor of being the producer for the BBC Sports broadcast (BBC has never carried roller derby up until now … no pressure!). Many names who took to the flat track have been or are part of teams who have won the Hydra – the trophy of the annual WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) Championships. The whistle blew to start one of the greatest all-star bouts, and it lived up to the expectations.

It’s been one month since my experience at the World Cup, and I still feel every bit of the intensity, jubilance and honor from being among the finest I have ever known. Soon begins the start of the travel season with my home league – Providence Roller Derby. For more than a decade, they have added the next generation of roller derby athletes to their roster, not only with new skaters who have joined the ranks, but by advancing their own Providence Junior Roller Derby. If I get the opportunity in another three years to announce at the next Roller Derby World Cup, I hope to call the action for some of the awesome and inspirational humans I have the privilege to call at home.

Follow Providence Roller Derby on Facebook or ProvidenceRollerDerby.com for updates on upcoming bouts and how you can join.

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