I was in Canada yesterday, impressive eh? Better than being at work to say the very least. Chances are if you’re reading our lovely site then you probably know why – but indulge me…
Last weekend (December 1st – 4th) saw the very first Roller Derby World Cup; teams from thirteen countries travelled to Toronto for a full-on four day tournament to be able to say they were the best in the whole wide world. The lucky thirteen were: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden & the USA. Sounds pretty awesome huh? Well I thought so, and I wasn’t alone either – 1,500 tickets were sold to spectators and three of those tickets went to me, the rather splendid Dame Fear Her Limbs and marvellous chum of SSRG – our mate Steph.
Not being people to miss out on the opportunity for a bit of sightseeing (drinking) we decided to head out a bit early and spent a week in Toronto’s tourist centre before the skating started. We hit the shops, the zoo, went on a brewery tour (big favourite with all three of us), zipped up the CN Tower and popped over to the super impressive Niagara Falls – but mainly we ate, and when we stopped eating we drank. Sometimes we drank while we ate – y’know, just to mix it up a bit… [Just as a side note, Canadians have yet to fully embrace cider. If you know me then you know I’m somewhat of an authority on the appley-stuff, so imagine my surprise that the tramp-endorsed Strongbow is often your only option & held in incredibly high esteem.]
Canadian food. Photo Credit: Steph Barry.
We took a short break from the eating & drinking to move from our Downtown Hostel over to the Crowne Plaza Hotel that was nearer the skate venue. The Plaza was also playing host to the vast majority of the teams skating in the World Cup, which made for some excellent skater spotting – Steph & The Dame were introduced to Iron Maven (“y’know from Whip It & those Nike adverts”) & I kept getting confused between the Swedes & the Finns and the Argentineans & the Brazilians.
The skating started on the Thursday in order to establish the seeding system. The top three seeds would get a bye from some of the elimination rounds – which meant they couldn’t meet each other until the semi final. Essentially if England wanted to avoid the USA until the final stages of the competition they would need to win all of their games with the largest points difference possible; cue a 199-64 victory over the All-Ireland team, followed by racking up 273 points compared to Argentina’s 31. The Vordermans among you will already know this gave England a 377 point differential.
Late afternoon on Friday the seeding was announced – number one seed was Team USA – not really a big surprise, their bouts had ended 377-8 against New Zealand & 435-1 against Scotland (massive love to Wild Oates of Scotland for the best reaction on scoring a point that I have ever seen, at that point in time I can genuinely say that all of Team Scotland were happier about that point than the USA were about their mighty impressive 435) this gave the US a 803 point differential (as well as setting everyone else’s expectations for the rest of the weekend).
Second seed was Team Canada – their two wins (against France & Sweden) had earned them a differential of 397 – twenty points more than England. Those twenty lovely, sparkly points were more than enough to secure the third seed spot – for the fact fans amongst you fourth place was taken by Australia with a 233 point differential. So that was that, a quick bit of mental arithmetic meant that we knew that the next England game would be against France, and if we won that we’d be up against Canada in the semi final, and if we beat Canada there’d be a USA v England final.
Once the seeds had been decided there was a “Parade of Nations” – which saw each team sing their national anthem, England did us proud by belting out Jerusalem complete with actions. The real star of the show was Team New Zealand however who finished up by performing the Hakka which to be honest was strangely emotional (and completely awesome).
New Zealand Hakka - Click to watch on YouTube
The elimination bouts began on Friday evening and continued through until the semi finals on Sunday. The standard of the skating was incredibly high across all the teams, if you look at the scores alone some of the bouts seem very one sided, and of course in some cases they were. That doesn’t mean that each team didn’t fight hard to prove their worth, personally I think that a team that doesn’t give up whilst on the receiving end of a drubbing can be just as impressive as a twenty five point jam.
As predicted England beat France (383-14 cheered on by Army Winehouse – Team England fans in Winehouse fancy dress) and met Canada in the semi final. I genuinely didn’t know what to expect, my only frames of reference were the two times that teams from the London Rollergirls had played against Montreal Roller Derby – they’d each won a game each so it was impossible to tell. Also Team England and Team Canada were by no means made up by skaters exclusively from LRG & Montreal so it was shaping up to be an incredibly exciting game before anyone stepped on the track.
The Canada game was my favourite of the whole weekend; it was hard fought on both sides with Canada taking the win with a score of 161 to England’s 90.
England’s next stop was Australia in the bout to decide third place. Going home without a medal clearly wasn’t an option for England – but Australia were not giving up without a fight; after a pretty tense first half England found their stride and finished up their last game 203-85 – taking third place convincingly.
It’s worth mentioning that it’s not just the skaters that fought for England – the three coaches: Ballistic Wistle, Barry Fight & Rollin Stoner worked just as hard as any skater on the track managing, coaching and line-up managing the third best team in the world, and the best in Europe, doesn’t just happen by accident, the amount of work that had been put in was evident from the first game back on day one. – Another group that should be singled out for praise are the referees & non skating officials – 38 games were played over the four days of the tournament on two different tracks. The days were long, the tracks were noisy and super hot and yet the quality of the refereeing was excellent. Naturally there were some calls that I didn’t agree with (and judging by Ballistic Wistle’s reactions he had something to say about a few of them) but that’s the nature of the sport – of any sport really…
The final was between Canada & the USA. Although Canada clearly had the crowd on their side it wasn’t enough to beat the experience of the US who had dominated the competition from the start and won 336 – 33 (that score’s not to be sniffed at – Canada scored more points against the US than all the other teams put together). Don’t be mistaken for thinking that the epic scores from the US ruined things for the spectators, or the teams they were playing against – you try telling that to the NZ skater who, at the after party, was enthusiastically telling me how she’d managed to knock Sexy Slaydie over – they’d been beaten 377-8 but she couldn’t be happier about it – Slaydie was also pretty impressed with the bruise she’d picked up at the hands of the Kiwi’s.
Getting friendly with the locals. Photo Credit: Steph Barry
Talking of the afterparty – I wish I could tell you more, but I really can’t go into too much detail – this is a family friendly website. But know this, my evening began by seeing Suzie Hotrod (Team USA) leg wrestle and ended with a lift back to the hotel from (uber skater) Quadzilla followed by the police being called to the hotel bar (a hundred or so derby girls & boys are quite loud) which resulted in Bonnie D. Stroir having to tell everyone to go to bed. Other abridged highlights include a team England/Finland human pyramid and Rogue Runner (Team England) and her Dolly Rockit league mates teaching me a whole lot of punching games that have left me with bruises in places I don’t think I’d want to show my nearest or dearest.
So now it’s nearly 15:00 on Wednesday, I’ve not really had much sleep since Monday, I’m covered in bruises in unmentionable places ,I’ve spent all of my money on overpriced Strongbow and I must have put on at least three stone.
That, my friends, is how you watch a World Cup…