PORTRAIT. Roller derby, a sport that « breaks the codes » for Mathilde Rosette

Roller derby celebrates its 10th anniversary in Caen (Calvados) on the weekend of October 1 and 2, 2022. Although still unknown to the general public, this sport is growing little by little. We met the player Mathilde Rosette to tell us about it.

8:30 p.m., Wednesday September 28, 2022. The strident sound of skidding skates echoes in the hall of the gymnasium of the Golden Apple in Caen (Calvados). Laps are getting faster and faster. Twelve roller derby players train under the whistle of their coach. Among them, Mathilde Rosetta. A passionate who joined the Caen club 2 years ago. She is focused, determined and always has a smile when she meets the eyes of her teammates. You just have to see her face, the 28-year-old is happy to be there: « I love this sport, it’s a passion, a real stress relief for me, I found the skate to suit me, let’s say ».

It was in 2018 that Mathilde discovered this discipline. A friend practices it in Caen, she goes to a match to support her and has a « real crush ». Then the Cherbourgeoise flew to Bogota in Colombia and settled there. She wants to play sports and meet people: « it was an opportunity to get started, I contacted several clubs and I ended up finding ». She embarked on the discipline as a total novice: « I clearly didn’t know how to skate like most people who are just starting out. For almost a year, I learned to skate, kick, receive and then master the rules of the game. When I started to have a good base I was accepted into the team ».

When I started I didn’t know how to skate, I had to learn everything, but that’s usually the case in this discipline

Since then, she cannot do without this sport. Returning from Colombia, Mathilde moved to Alençon (Orne) and played for several months at RD Mans 72. Then she was transferred to Caen where she was trainer for people who want to become farmers.

So in 2020 she joined the Caen roller derby team and it is with enthusiasm that she explains to us The game’s rules : « a match lasts 1 hour with 2 periods of 30 minutes and is divided into ‘jam’, portions up to 2 minutes ». Five players, two teams who face each other and they don’t go out of their way: “There are 4 blockers and 1 jammer on each team. They are lined up and take to the track at the whistle. Behind them, the last two players of each team, the jammers, leave just after. They are recognized by their star on the helmet. Their goal: to overtake the opposing blockers, grouped in packs, to take the lead and do as many laps as possible.

Matilda is « jammer » and on the track she rushes, she is not afraid of contact or of falling: « the jammer is the only one who scores the points so you have to give everything ». The best of them can take between 10 to 12 seconds to complete a lap!

A political sport

Roller derby is an atypical sport created by women for women at the base : « but when it comes to rollerblading, we break the codes, there is a lot of benevolence and no judgment. Cis genders and queers can play with us, we don’t exclude anyone and we refuse patriarchal ideas ». An inclusive and non-gender sport.

Moreover in Caen they call themselves the « players » not players. Solidarity and cohesion are surely the two words that sum up the spirit of this game. And all of them have A nickname written on their shirt on the back. Mathilde calls herself « Jacky Chan ». It’s a roller derby emancipation marker: « INicknames define your personality, your style of play, your character ». Glitter warriors also with their makeup on their faces during encounters.

Promote sports

Appeared in the 1930s in the United Statesthe discipline was first given the name of “roller wrestling” due to the rough contacts that punctuated the encounters, the discipline experienced its golden age in the 1960s before dissipating from the 1980s and reappearing at the dawn of the 2000s in a more modern form such as we know it today. This sport arrived in France in 2009 thanks in particular to the film Bliss. There are approximately 4,000 licensees in France.

But the Roller Derby is still unknown to the general public. So to talk about it, the Caen team is organizing an event to celebrate its 10th anniversary on the weekend of October 1 and 2. During this weekend, matches, an exhibition and an evening to meet the players.

The « players » caennaises want make this sport known outside their close circle. All of them are volunteers within the association that represents them and they are invested in making things happen. An initiative close to Mathilde’s heart: « When there are association events, we try to be there to raise awareness and arouse the curiosity of the population, we even plan to canvass bars to offer broadcasts of French or world championship matches in establishments ».

The practice of sport has nevertheless evolved in Caen. Now the workouts take place in a gymnasium. When it started, 10 years ago, the teams trained in the parking lot of a supermarket. An anecdote that makes Mathilde smile : « It’s great, it proves that at the time the girls wanted it, they didn’t give up to make this sport exist! ». Even if the young woman would like the town hall to go a little further: “we would like the city of Caen to trace us a track on the ground because there we manage with studs, that would be great”.

10 years ago, the Caennaises trained in a supermarket parking lot:

Today, the Caen team has around 25 players. But it welcomes 30 new recruits this year:« It’s nice, it shows that there is still a craze ». What is certain is that Mathilde aka Jacky Chan is far from wanting to stop this passion and whether in Caen or elsewhere, roller derby is totally part of his life.

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