Waterloo region skaters help bring home bronze for Team Canada in Roller Derby World Cup

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The Team Canada Junior Roller Derby female team are celebrating after bringing home a bronze medal against the world team at the Junior Roller Derby World Cup in France.

Canada’s open division team slid into a fourth place finish. The open division “does not ask gender of anyone,” according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. “Anyone who chooses to play in this division may participate,” their website says.

Canada sent 35 players to compete in the World Cup late last month. Both the female and open teams had 15 players each with five players who participated in both divisions.

Three players on the third place team were from Waterloo region and the surrounding area: Makayla “Ma-Kill-Ya” Soper is from Stratford, and both Tess “Tornado” Charlton and Katherine “Skatie McPain” McLean live in Guelph.

“I never knew there was something else out there that I could like, fall in love with and be so good at,” said Soper about roller derby.

Makayla Soper played for the bronze-winning Team Canada female team at the Roller Derby World Cup in France. (James Chaarani/CBC)

Soper put her first pair of skates on when she was just eight years old. She was with her older sister and their friends. They all already knew how to skate, she said.

“I knew how to skate. I just didn’t know the fundamentals, the basics, how to rock with it, I guess.”

Nine years later, she’s on the top team. But she had to train for the last three years of her roller derby career to get to the position where making the World Cup team seemed realistic.

“A lot of hard work was put into getting to where I am today,” she said.

The World Cup teams play in Level 3. Soper said in Level 1, there’s no contact. Level 2 is just pushing. And then Level 3 is full contact.

Soper was only 13 when she first made Level 3.

She had always wanted to turn roller derby into more than just a game for her, she said. “I just never thought I would make a national team. I think eight-year-old me would be screaming.”

‘It was a beautiful experience’

The open division team didn’t share the same luck as the female team, losing their bronze medal game to Australia. 

But that doesn’t upset Kitchener’s Valerie “Valkyrie” Klassen too much.

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Valerie Klassen played for the fourth-place clinching Team Canada open division team in the Roller Derby World Cup in France. (James Chaarani/CBC)

“It was a beautiful experience,” she said. “Team Canada seemed like a lofty goal. I struck for it and I struck gold too.”

Klassen started roller derby when she was young, too. She watched her mother play as a hobby, “and I fell in love with the sport,” she said.

“I would say it’s a little bit like rugby on wheels, without a ball.”

The first time she was on the rink was when she was nine years old, but as a referee — not a player.

“Little nine-year-old me refereeing adult games was definitely a bit of a spectacle to the spectators that showed up,” Klassen said.

She tied up her skates to play for the first time when she was 11 years old.

“It’s such an inclusive community, It’s the best community in sports you’ll ever find.”



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