Spain's steely roller derby skaters championing inclusivity in sport

by Reuters
Friday, 18 November 2022 11:24 GMT

A view of tattoos on the leg of a skater of Barcelona’s Steel Groin roller derby team as the skaters stand during a training session in Barcelona, Spain November 16, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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Spain's steely roller derby skaters is growing in popularity around the world and drawing players with its LGBT+ friendly and inclusive ethos

BARCELONA, Nov 17 (Reuters) - Boasting names like "Femina Morte" and "Mad, Mad Chica," the skaters of Barcelona's Steel Groin (Ingles de Acero) roller derby team are as tough as their names sound.

The fast-paced, full-contact sport played on quad skates and divided into two 30-minutes halves of "jams", each lasting up to two minutes, is growing in popularity around the world and drawing players with its LGBT+ friendly and inclusive ethos.

Roller derby sees teams play five players a side, one of whom is a "jammer", who seeks to pass four blockers from the opposing team as they skate at high speed around an oval track.

The blockers try to stop the jammer while making room for their own jammer.

"I love roller derby because it's a community around the world, where no matter your body, your gender, your sexual orientation you are welcome," said Steel Groin's Marina Quer, aka "Marinaker," who plays as a jammer.

Steel Groin is a team for women and individuals who self-identify as women, in contrast to many sports run on strict gender binary terms.

"Women can be strong, can be violent, can be competitive, can be strategic… and I love that," said Quer, a 30-year-old marketing director.

There are about 25 roller derby teams in Spain and over 1,200 leagues worldwide, mostly in the United States.

The sport's international association, the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) states it is "committed to inclusive and anti-discrimination practices in relation to all transgender women, intersex women, and gender expansive participants, and aims to ensure that all skaters', volunteers', and employees' rights are respected and protected."

Roller derby was developed in the United States in the 1930s. Practiced mainly by women, it enjoyed a revival in the 2000s.

The Barcelona team began playing on the streets of the coastal city in 2010 and registered as a club in April 2011.

Any new member or "fresh meat", as newbies are nicknamed, needs to pass a trial based on skating skills and strategic skills to block the jammer.

"I think all sports should integrate all people, obviously, but it is also cool to find identity and community in different places," said transgender maths teacher Diana Toboso, 31, during her trial session for Steel Groin.

"I'm able to be myself in roller derby".