Skater Profile: Swede Hurt of the Manhattan Mayhem
by: Thomas GerbasiSeptember 18, 2010
Watch Swede Hurt and her Mayhem teammates vs. the Brooklyn Bombshells on Wednesday night, Sept. 22, on NYC life, Channel 25, at 11:30pm, or thereafter at www.ggrd-nyclife.com.
Swede and the rest of the GGRD All-Stars take on the best in the WFTDA East Region next weekend at Derby in the Burbs, in White Plains, NY.
Swede Hurt – Have Skates, Will Travel
By Thomas Gerbasi
It was a whirlwind tour by any definition of the term. Three mid-August bouts in Portland followed by a trip to Europe – first to Denmark, then Sweden – and capped off by a return to home base in New York. But the woman known to roller derby fans as Swede Hurt wasn’t done yet, as she laced up her skates and hit the track for her home team, the Manhattan Mayhem, and pulled double duty in the squad’s hard fought September 11th loss to the Brooklyn Bombshells.
Above: Swede Hurt skates against the Bombshells in September 2010. Photo: Chris Chin
That crazy month should have been enough for anyone to race off following the bout without a word, pack a bag, and disappear into the arms of sleep for as long as it took to recover. Not Swede Hurt though. As soon as the grueling 60 minute bout at Hunter College was over, there she was, with her ever-present smile, raving about her team despite what had to be an overwhelming desire to simply take her skates off and rest.
“I really love the Mayhem,” she beamed after the bout. “It’s a very fun team, we’ve got great camaraderie and everybody cares about each other.”
An attitude like Swede’s is prevalent in derby, but almost nonexistent in the rest of the sports world. And she takes it to another level, as she’s seemingly always happy. For her, that’s no big deal; it’s just the way she is.
“I’m having the best time of my life,” she said before the September 11th bout, while waiting for her connecting flight to Denmark. “I love derby, I love Manhattan Mayhem, I love playing with the All-Stars. Derby is the best sport, and not only because it’s the most fun, but also because of the people in it, the way they feel about it and want to bring it to an athletic level, and I really love how derby is getting more and more athletic.”
Above: Swede Hurt goes airborne vs. Rose City in August 2010. Photo: Jules Doyle
She should know. A former competitive snowboarder in her native Sweden, the Mayhem blocker / jammer competed in the FIS Junior World Championships and the Goodwill Games, and also finished third in the 2003 Swedish National Championships before calling it quits at the age of 25.
“My knees were really giving out,” she explains. “And I was looking at the girls that were 17 that are going to the Olympics now, and they were up and coming and they were doing things that I didn’t really feel like doing. I had come to that point in the sport where you’re like ‘I love this sport, but my body is not gonna take me there,’ and I’m the kind of person that if I can’t be among the best, I’m not really gonna do it. I do it because it’s fun, but I always have to push myself to be one of the best, and I had been doing it for eight years, and I wanted to go to college.”
Relocating to the United States (which isn’t a stretch considering that she has already visited an estimated 34 countries), Swede went to college in Washington state, and while working on her BA in Political Science and Economics, a neighbor introduced her to roller derby.
Simple enough, with the exception of the fact that she had never skated before. And though she obviously had an athletic pedigree from her snowboarding days, her friends expected some issues with this new athletic endeavor.
“My friends call me ‘the rag doll’ because I have no coordination,” she laughs. “They were always amazed at me doing really good in snowboarding. But there are some things I apparently pull myself together for, and derby and snowboarding are two of them.”
So once the skates were on, everything fell into place.
Above: Swede Hurt lines up a hit against the Bombshells - September 2010. Photo: Chris Chin
“I had never even been on a pair of roller skates three years ago,” she said. As soon as I started roller skating, I knew I loved roller skating itself, and then I tried out for Jet City, they picked me up, and here I am.”
That’s the condensed version. The longer story is that Swede was an immediate hit with Camaro Harem of Washington’s Jet City Rollergirls in 2008, and then moved on to the Rat City Rollergirls league a year later, where she became an All-Star and skated for the Sockit Wenches. Not bad for someone who never skated before, but she wasn’t about to get cocky about her success.
“I went from barely knowing how to skate to becoming one of their really good jammers and I thought maybe I’m pretty good at this, but like all athletes, I have self-doubt, and sometimes I was like ‘I don’t know really why I’m doing this,” she said. “But I just love it. I love the sisterhood of derby, I love how everybody works really hard and that it is a sport, but it’s also still evolving.”
Not surprisingly, she became fast friends with people she met along the way, including two New Yorkers who go by the derby names Bonnie Thunders and OMG WTF. And when the opportunity arose for Swede to relocate once again, this time to the Big Apple, she jumped at the chance.
“I always wanted to live in New York for a part of my life,” she said, also noting that the plane trip to see her family in Sweden is a lot shorter from the east coast than it is from out west.
Plus, “There’s roller derby there and as long as there’s roller derby, I’m happy.”
And if you believe in things like fate, when Swede was assigned to the Mayhem, it was like it was written in the stars.
“I’ve always been on orange teams,” she laughs. “This is my third team, and it’s always orange. My first team I was on, Camaro Harem, was orange. Then for Rat City I was on Socket Wenches, which was blue and orange.”
Above: Swede jams against the Gridlock in June 2010. Photo: Tom Igoe.
Yet despite getting to wear orange again, there would be another adjustment period for this world traveler, and not just getting used to the fast pace of NYC and city dwellers who aren’t always as upbeat as she is. She had to adjust to a new set of teammates, both on the Mayhem and eventually, the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Stars.
“The only thing that’s hard, coming from being one of the All-Stars in your old league and then you come over to a new one, you have to earn that respect that you already had in your old league,” she said. “I had to settle down and work really hard to get on the level where I am now. You have to take a step back and redo a bunch of things you’ve done, but I didn’t mind doing that because you have to prove yourself every time you change a league or team. And if you don’t work hard, you’re not going to get there. It’s just working hard, having fun while doing it, and having a very positive attitude.”
And when that first whistle blows, you have to make an impact, and Swede certainly did that, earning MVP honors in her first game for the Mayhem, as they defeated Queens, 94-84. She would add 17 points in five jams in the next Manhattan bout against the Bronx on June 12th, and while her team fell short in the regular season finale last weekend, she led her team in scoring with 28 points and also added a series of big hits, including one on Brooklyn’s OMG WTF that drew a collective ‘whoa’ from the sold-out crowd.
But 2010 isn’t over for Swede Hurt yet, as she will be back in action with the GGRD All-Stars in the WFTDA East Regionals on September 24-26. Then it’s a final Mayhem bout on October 9th, then the WFTDA National Tournament in November. So what’s the plan for keeping it all together? She has her own internal checklist, one that got her through her early days.
• Put your head down and work really hard.
• Skate more.
• Have fun.
• Be civil to people.
• Be respectful.
• Try to figure out how your teammates skate and what they’re good at.
Seems to be working so far, and it’s what keeps her smiling, even after 60 minutes of – pardon the pun – mayhem on the track.
Above: Swede jams against Rose City in August 2010. Photo: Jules Doyle
“I like playing with other people that are upbeat and honest, and if you forget to have fun, you’re not going to get better, because you won’t have the motivation to get better,” she said. “You always start doing something because you love to do it, and not because you think you should. This is what I do because I love doing it. Sometimes, when my whole body’s hurting, it can get frustrating, but then I think about why I do it, and it’s because I love it and it’s so much fun. Sometime you have to remind yourself, because I do have the time of my life when I do it.”