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Roller Derby World Cup Brings Blockers And Jammers From Across The Globe To Dallas

Fans of cutthroat competition, raucous crowds and full contact sports can find their dream event at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas this weekend. And it’s played on wheels.

The second-ever Roller Derby World Cup screeched into North Texas Thursday. Competitors from 30 countries will be rolling around through Sunday.

Meet 'Blockadile Dundee'

The thing you can’t escape is the names: Slamurai, Enemy, Tantrum, Mad Malooney, Samuel L. Smackson, George W. Tush.

The women skating in the Blood & Thunder World Cup have style. A member of Team Ireland was sporting chartreuse eye-liner. On Team Japan, a skater wore dramatic red lipstick and painted her face with stripes to match. And then there was the referee wearing skates, knee pads and a short pleated skirt.

Credit Courtney Collins / KERA news
KERA news
Nobody is questioning the fandom of Team Australia.

Team Australia’s "Blockadile Dundee" (aka Nikkee Boyle) appreciates both the style and substance of the game.

“Originally I thought like, ‘I love roller skating and these girls are so cool and I want to be like them.’ And I kind of realized that it was a sport after I started playing. So you kind of get fooled; you get roped into it,” Boyle says.

A Real Sport

These athletes train hard. Many skate seven days a week. That’s obvious when you watch a match, which is called a “bout.”

Each roller derby team has five players on the track at a time -- four blockers and a jammer. Each time a jammer navigates past a blocker, that team scores a point, which occasionally leads to contact.

Roller derby has come a long way since the Nixon administration. Short skirts and plunging necklines have given way to uniforms that look like cycling suits. Bouts are no longer fixed and tackling isn’t even legal anymore.

“I think what it is is people always think back to roller derby back in the '70s when it was on the bank track and it was more wrestling than it was sport,” says World Cup organizer Larry Hopper.

Credit Christina Ulsh / KERA news
KERA news
This year's World Cup more than doubled the last event, held in Toronto in 2011.

He says their first event in Toronto three years ago featured 14 teams; this year, 30 countries sent teams.

Sequins From Head To Toe

It’s hard to say which fans are the most rabid, but the enthusiasm award might go to the Aussies. Ask team member “Cookie Cutter” (who also goes by Dominique Omdahl).

“We have chants for every single person on the bench, on the track, in the stands,” she says. 

Naturally, the women sing "Down Under," the '80s hit song by the Australian group Men at Work.

The sport itself might be more serious today than it was 40 years ago. But look at the fans of Team Belgium clad in head-to-toe sequins. Then there are the shamrock-shellacked supporters of Team Ireland, and those Aussies, cheering alongside inflatable kangaroos. 

It’s clear the roller derby crowd still knows how to have fun.

Rolling In From Around The World

Teams represent 30 countries. Here's a sampling: South Africa, New Zealand, France, Portugal, Brazil, Japan, Colombia, Mexico, Greece, Ireland, Argentina, Spain

Catch The Action

Learn more about the Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup 2014. It runs through Sunday in Dallas.

Courtney Collins has been working as a broadcast journalist since graduating from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 2004. Before coming to KERA in 2011, Courtney worked as a reporter for NPR member station WAMU in Washington D.C. While there she covered daily news and reported for the station’s weekly news magazine, Metro Connection.