Gotham Girls at the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup

Starting today and running through Sunday, Dallas, Texas hosts the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup. With 30 nations represented, this second such tournament proves that derby has indeed become an international phenomenon. And the Gotham Girls Roller Derby league is well represented this week, with Arson Tina (Argentina), Pippi Strongsocking and Cork Rebel (Ireland), Swede Hurt (Sweden), and OMG WTF, Donna Matrix, Fisti Cuffs, Bonnie Thunders, Suzy Hotrod, Mick Swagger and Sexy Slaydie (USA) all taking to the track for their respective nations. Read on for the thoughts of Team USA’s Suzy Hotrod on this historic event.

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In 2011, the first Roller Derby World Cup could best be described as a step in the right direction in terms of globalizing the sport, but as far as the action on the track, it was Team USA’s show from start to finish. This week, the second World Cup takes place in Dallas, Texas, and while the gals in the stars and stripes will be heavily favored to repeat as world champions, one of the team’s veteran standouts, Gotham’s own Suzy Hotrod, believes that the tournament won’t necessarily be as one-sided as it was the first time.

“Now that it (the World Cup) is more established, there’s definitely more of a competitive nature to it, whereas I feel like the first one had a really landmark warmth to it and more of a celebration of togetherness,” she said. “It still does, but there’s so many more people competing in it, and there’s been a really present amount of information telling us that the other teams are working really hard. I think in the first World Cup I think they kind of threw together whoever could get on a plane, and this time, I think all the other countries had tryouts and had multiple occasions throughout the year where they’ve practiced together, and it may be at the point where the other teams are more cohesive, and that’s kind of cool. It’s game on.”

Growing from 13 to 30 countries, this year’s edition of the World Cup promises to show how far the sport has grown, not just from the flat track revival in the early part of the millennium, but from 2011 to 2014. Three years can be a lifetime in derby years, and as skaters like those on Team USA and from Gotham and other leagues have gone abroad to spread the derby gospel, other countries have not just embraced the sport, but they’re getting pretty damn good at it. Competing in this year’s WFTDA playoffs were teams from England, Canada, Australia and Germany, and with several America-based players joining their native countries on the track, the national teams competing in the World Cup starting Thursday will likely perform on a higher level than three years ago.

“I’m pretty excited to watch the other countries play each other, because there are a lot of teams I’m really unfamiliar with, and there’s always up and coming stars on each of those teams, and it’s really cool,” Suzy said.

And experience isn’t just the key for these teams’ improvement, though that certainly helps. What has been an important element of these squads getting better is that they’ve had more track time together, and not just over the last three years, but in the lead-up to the tournament. It’s a luxury Team USA hasn’t necessarily had.

“It’s definitely a challenge, but I do think the chemistry on this team is pretty good,” Suzy said. “It feels more comfortable and familiar. A lot of us did play on the first team, and with Team USA, we actually know each other pretty well, either from going around and coaching or playing in the WFTDA tournaments. So there’s a good chemistry. We might not have track time under our belts together, but we do know each other pretty well, and there is a bit of auto-pilot and instinct that does definitely help. So the answer is, track time is what’s going to make a team really great, but I think that the experience of the individual players lends itself to making it work when we get together.”

In a pool with newcomers Puerto Rico and The Netherlands, Team USA (which sports Gotham skaters Suzy, Bonnie Thunders, Mick Swagger, Fisti Cuffs, Sexy Slaydie, OMG WTF, and Donna Matrix) is expected to make it unscathed into the elimination round, where the real fun begins on Saturday, and Suzy and company are keeping their eye on several hungry contenders for the crown.

“We always keep our eye on Canada and England, Sweden’s no slouch either, and it’s really tough to say (who the top threats are) because I haven’t seen a lot of the European teams and I think we’re going to get a lot of good play out of Europe,” she said. “I’m excited to see some of the up and coming nations as well. Everybody’s been working hard, and I keep half an eye open on social media and there have been a few teams that have been really, really active in promoting and talking about it, so I think there will be people that are going to surprise us. There are people that are excited that this is their first time there, and the competitive aspect is much higher than the first event. Everything’s going to be bigger.”

Who would have thought that would have been the case back when Suzy first laced up her skates for the Gotham Girls in 2004? Not her.

“Even at the first World Cup I was amazed,” she said. “Everything has changed. The sport has changed and luckily I changed with it and that’s why I’m still here, but when I started, I matched it tit for tat. It was like scrappy drinkers club and it was kind of cool. (Laughs) I liked it like that and I’m still really good friends with the people who started it, but at the same time it’s totally insane what it turned into. I remember going to practices that were out on concrete in Chinatown with Modell’s skates that were 30 bucks, and I was like ‘oh, this is nothing, I’m just doing it because it’s a good way to exercise.’ I really didn’t ever think it was going to be anything big, but I’m glad I stuck around for it. It’s unbelievable how big it is.”