ROME (AP) — Roller derby, which was born in the U.S. in the 1950s as a rough-and-tumble contact sport, is catching on in Italy, albeit in a very wholesome way.
Tired of being labeled “bad girls,” Italy’s roller derby teams are seeking to promote messages of anti-racism, solidarity, feminism and even vegetarianism. They’ve just wrapped up their national championship in Bolzano, northern Italy, which saw Milan team The Harpies beat the She Wolves before cheering crowds.
Roller derby is slowly expanding in several Italian cities, including Milan and Rome. It involves two teams roller skating in the same direction around a track in two-minute sections called jams. Each team has four blockers and one jammer, who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.
Serena Paccagnella, who goes by the derby nickname “Seitan Helle,” founded the She Wolves in 2012 and is seeking to create an independent national roller derby league under the motto “For the skaters by the skaters.”
The aim is to let women know they can join the fast-paced, full-contact sport regardless of their fitness level, age, or social background.
“This is a sport that pulls together women who want to break away from what are considered more traditional female sports,” she says. “When you practice it, you combine the elegance of skating with the rudeness of physical contact.”