Skater Profile

Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Skater Profile: Bonnie Thunders of the Bronx Gridlock - Staying Ahead of the Pack

by: Thomas Gerbasi
April 20, 2011

Watch Bonnie and her Bronx Gridlock teammates taking on the Queens of Pain in the first 2011 league bout.  The bout airs in New York on Saturday night, April 23rd, at 12:30am on NYC life (Channel 25/22), and streams thereafter on the NYC Media video-on-demand site.

 

Bonnie Thunders – Staying Ahead of the Pack
by Thomas Gerbasi

Admittedly good for just a couple fist pumps per bout, if that, Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Star Bonnie Thunders is the undisputed Empress of Cool on the flat track, able to pile up the points with a poker faced precision that can intimidate the most formidable of foes.

But last November in Chicago, the GGRD All-Stars hit a wall in the form of the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, and with a berth in the 2010 WFTDA Championship finals on the line, things looked bleak at best, as the New Yorkers fell behind 37-4.

Thunders, the team Captain, knew it was time to reach into her bag of tricks, and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, so with her team trailing 60-27, she raced through the Rocky Mountain pack with the deft moves that have become her trademark. When she called off the jam after juking past RMRG blocker Psycho Babble, picking up four much-needed points, she spun into a 180 degree turn and faced her tormentors with a stare that spoke volumes. It said, ‘we’re not ready to go home yet.’

Mid-jam, Bonnie stares down DeRanged of Rocky Mountain at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Jules Doyle

Mid-jam, Bonnie stares down DeRanged of Rocky Mountain at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Jules Doyle

It was as if a switch was turned and Gotham got the jump start it needed. They would match Rocky Mountain point for point the rest of the way, even winning the second half 48-33, but in the end, the early deficit was too much to overcome, and they lost 108-79.

“It was a very emotional tournament for us, and the Rocky Mountain game was the hardest game that I’ve ever played to date,” said Thunders, who still paced the team with 36 points. “I tried to let myself show a little more emotion on the track, and I was able to get more fired up for the game. I think the whole team felt that way as well, especially in that game.”

Rocky Mountain would go on to defeat the Oly Rollers for the WFTDA title, but before that bout took place, Gotham still had the third place bout to play against their east coast rivals from Philly. It was a recipe for disaster, the drained Gotham Girls having to play one more game against a team intent on revenge for past defeats. But what the Rocky Mountain bout showed was that Thunders’ leadership had evolved as she rallied her troops for a statement-making victory fewer than 24 hours after a crushing defeat.

That’s just what she did, as Gotham beat Philly 162-51 to end 2010 with a 12-1 record.

“I think we do a really good job of reflecting on things that we can improve on and moving forward from them,” she said. “We do that with every game we play, even when we win by 300 points. It just takes a lot of focus and our team is very focused and serious. It’s about accepting the loss, but then you have to move forward from it. What we focused on most after Rocky Mountain was, yeah, we lost, but we just played the eventual champions, we won the second half, and we pulled things together significantly. So everybody was proud of the victories we had on the track even if the score was a loss at the end.”

Bonnie tugs on teammate Sweet Sherry Pie for a little extra speed at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Eric Korn

Bonnie tugs on teammate Sweet Sherry Pie for a little extra speed
at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Eric Korn

In the Philly bout, Thunders didn’t just get her team amped up for a season-ending win; she blitzed the Liberty Belles for a record 108 points. Then came the awards:

- Best Jammer
- Bronx Gridlock MVP
- GGRD All-Star MVP
- GGRD League MVP

Derby News Network 'Best of 2010' reader poll winner – Most Valuable Jammer

Oh yeah, she was in a video game too.

But there is no rest in derby, so as soon as the 2010 dust settled, the vicious training cycle for 2011 kicked in, and when you’re the target everyone’s shooting for, staying ahead of the pack gets more and more intense each year.

“I don’t think most athletes ever take an off-season where they don’t train at all and I think throughout the year my training peaks and then crests at certain times depending on when I have games,” said Thunders.  Not surprisingly, she embraces this aspect of the game, both as an individual and as a member of the GGRD All-Stars and the defending GGRD champions, the Bronx Gridlock.

“I definitely thrive under pressure, in my personal life and in my derby life,” she said. “I like challenges and the pressure of it, and it’s easy to crumble under that pressure, but I feel like I have a lot of support from my team to help me out, and this is a team sport, so we have to win it as a team.”

Bonnie with a fist pump after a successful jam versus Rocky Mountain at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Jules Doyle

Bonnie with a fist pump after a successful jam versus Rocky Mountain at the 2010 WFTDA Championship.  Photo: Jules Doyle

On March 26, the Gridlock picked up where they left off, defeating their championship rivals, the Queens of Pain, 152-81. Thunders led all scorers with 66 points, crossing the 1,000 point mark for her GGRD home career, 93 points ahead of fellow league legend Suzy Hotrod. You could call it business as usual, but it’s anything but that for the five year vet.

“Every year I think of a new goal to expand my repertoire of skills and try to branch out and learn new things that will help me out on a personal level with my skills,” she said. “You can never get stale because if you do then other people are gonna get better than you. I think I’m very good at certain things, but there are definitely other things that I can work on to improve and so I’m just focusing on improving those things because that keeps me challenged and keeps me scraping to get to the next level.”

For Thunders, that next level includes a three-peat for the Gridlock and an All-Star return to the form shown in 2008, when they won the WFTDA title. As for individual honors, she’s pretty much run the table on those thus far, so is the goal simply to play the perfect game?

Bonnie makes a strong move to the outside against Queens in the March season opener.  Photo: Darren Mayhem

Bonnie makes a strong move to the outside against Queens in the March season opener.  Photo: Darren Mayhem

“I don’t think it exists,” she said. “The perfect game is sort of a figment of the imagination, and I think if you hit that perfect game, that probably means that you’re ready to retire. (Laughs) I’m pretty critical of myself and I keep perspective that way. I don’t like to get too cocky because if you get cocky you get comfortable and when you get comfortable is when you lose.”

And losing is the one thing Bonnie Thunders isn’t about to get used to. Yet what she has begun to implement is the idea that being in your athletic prime isn’t something to be rushed through, so it doesn’t hurt to stop and smell the roses every now and again.

“Roller derby is always fun, but I’m making it a point to savor the moments and make those special moments happen on the track and remember them, rather than just forgetting them and moving straight on to the next one.”