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Roller derby: Juicy Lucy is looking to drop a Berlin Bombshell

In the bowels of Meadowbank Sports Centre this weekend, spectators will cheer as "Alma Geddon" booty-blocks a German girl on rollerskates, fans will gasp as jammer "Juicy Lucy" jinks past the Berlin blockers.

Much of the crowd will attend as curious observers, unaware of specific rules, however many will return to the thrill of roller derby, a sport of great power, skill and strategy that has attracted a playing roster of around 60 women to Auld Reekie Roller Girls.

Hall 1 at Meadowbank is suitably "underground" for this cult pursuit, and will play host to ARRG's game against Berlin Bombshells this weekend - a meeting of two of just four clubs outside North America who are fully-fledged members of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA).

Popularity of the sport after the release of recent hit film Whip It, directed by Drew Barrymore, which featured Ellen Page (of Juno fame) as an indie-rock misfit who found her calling as a roller derby skater.

"Since that came out, we've had great publicity as a league," says ARRG's Kirsty Greer - known as 'Tartan Tearaway' on the circuit. "There are now 60 women here, from people who skate on the 'A' team to the people who train every two weeks. There are three sessions a week, so there's the option of seven hours a week if you're really keen. At the same time, we are trying to open up to a more recreational approach."

Much of the training is about endurance practice, because a game lasts two hours and is divided into two-minute 'jams' - individual races whose results are totted up to reach a result.

There are two teams of five players skating anti-clockwise on an oval track. Points are scored as the designated scoring player, the "jammer", laps members of the opposing team, including its "blockers".

To impede the progress of the opposing team's jammer, players may block using body parts above the mid-thigh, excluding forearms, hands, and head.

Elbows may not be used in blocking, and cannot be swung at other players or used to hook an opponent's or team-mate's arm. If a player forces an opposing jammer out of bounds, the jammer re-enters behind the player.

Auld Reekie Roller Girls arrive at training sessions with suitcases full of equipment, but are not as heavily-armoured as American footballers - because roller derby is "more badass" than Gridiron, according to Stitches, a rookie roller girl. It appears to act as a real coming together of feminism and camaraderie, where women wear fishnets and hotpants as part of their uniform and revel in a wholly welcoming atmosphere among their clubmates.

"It suits a women's physique," says Kirsty. "For some woman, it's about taking sport back - they can be a size 16 and wear fishnets. For me, it doesn't matter what I wear, but some of the outfits are great."

As a prime outlet for pent-up aggression, it's a mark of respect that the often-heavy physical contact among the bruised and battered skaters is shrugged off. "You are going to get hit, so it's the sort of sport where you have to come off at the end and not be bitchy," explains Kirsty.

Outside the USA and Canada only the Auld Reekie team, their weekend opponents Berlin, and clubs in London and Paris can boast membership of the WFTDA.

AARG enjoyed their taste of "big time" roller derby, when over 700 curious spectators packed Meadowbank's Hall 1 in a summer exhibition game against London as part of August's Fringe Festival. The club is hoping for another bumper support on Saturday.

&#149 To discover the magic behind one of the Capital's most exciting sports, get along to Meadowbank Sports Centre (Hall 1) on Saturday The action begins at 2.00pm, with entry costing 8 on the door (under 14s go free). Advance tickets can be purchased at a discounted price at www.arrg.co.uk

 
 
 

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