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Startup team gets down and derby

By Staff | Oct 26, 2011

Thrills and spills are always a part of roller derby and what spectators come to see. But for many women who are giving the fast-growing sport a try, the biggest allure is in trying to overcome personal obstacles, achieve goals and prove that they are much more than a pretty face – that they can get just as rough and act as tough as any male athlete.

Wanting to have something for herself was a main reason Sally Gibeaut sought out to organize a roller derby league in Marietta, Ohio.

Gibeaut, along with husband, Michael, owns the Marietta Roller Rink at the Washington County fairgrounds, which has been a popular hangout for decades.

She became interested in the sport about four years ago and joined a team in Athens, Ohio, the Appalachian Hell Betties, a few months ago.

“I wanted to get better at skating and I wanted to do something that (her husband) wasn’t doing. He plays hockey and all that and I wanted to do this for myself, to prove that I could,” Gibeaut said.

Skating and scrimmaging with the Athens team, Gibeaut knew that a roller derby league was something that Marietta needed and could benefit from. From the Athens league, Gibeaut recruited a couple other ladies, including Rose Azbell and Mary Ann Crocker to help get a group together and to help teach the women different basic moves.

Alexa Perko “Skankasaurus Lex” from the Ohio Valley Roller Girls out of St. Clairsville/Wheeling was also recruited to run the girls through drills.

Among the “fresh meat” to show up for the first informational session was Shay Curtis, 29, of Marietta.

“I want to do this so I can knock bitches down without getting in trouble,” she laughed, half joking and half completely serious, a quality typical of many who turn to roller derby.

And Curtis isn’t alone. Owning their power, proving how strong they are both mentally and physically and overcoming a fear of falling and of getting hurt is a big reason why roller derby is so popular with some women.

Mandy Beebe, 30, of Beverly, Ohio, is a mother who joined the roller derby group to prove the naysayers wrong.

“Other people have told me I can’t do this and that’s why I am doing it. I mean, why not?”she said.

For others, roller derby serves as a way to relieve stress.

“I need to take out 26 years of aggression,” said Ashley Cunningham, of Marietta, who has adopted the name “Smash Le’More.”

Gibeaut said she would like to see at least 20 to 30 women turn out to try for the team. Wannabe derby dolls must pass a grueling test of skills, which includes skating multiple laps, stopping and falling using proper techniques, crossing over at corners and gliding on one foot, according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

The ultimate goal for the Marietta Derby Girls league is to be able to have enough members to start scrimmaging – 14 – and at least 20 to form a team, which is the maximum. If there is more interest, more teams could form within the Marietta league.

Eventually, bouts will be open to the public in a larger space, preferably at the fairgrounds, according to Gibeaut.

Many roller derby bouts offer fans the chance to get up close and personal by sitting close to the track. Others feature loud music, food and beverages and many leagues donate proceeds to worthy community causes.

Women’s roller derby first became popular in the 1930s and 40s and made comebacks in the 1970s and early 2000s.

An appealing aspect for many skaters is the ability to create a different persona, complete with costume and a unique skater name.

It is also a full contact sport that, regardless of stamina, strength, or skill level, can still result in serious injury. Participants are asked to sign a waiver.

Regardless of the risk of bodily injury, however, those who have entered the world of roller derby have done so with no regrets.