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Arts, Sports & Culture

Four Local 'Brats' Are Headed To The Junior Roller Derby Olympics

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Megan Fair
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90.5 WESA
Sydney "Smashberry Skatecake" Ryan, Emma "Hudson" Hudson and Wylie "Kid Vicious" Garrett are three Pittsburgh-area skaters headed to the Junior Roller Derby Olympics.

For the first time, roller derby will be included in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games. Four junior derby athletes who skate locally for the Pittsburgh Derby Brats will participate in this historic inclusion.

Competing from Pittsburgh are Kristin “Piston V8” Cunzolo, Sydney “Smashberry Skatecake” Ryan, Wylie “Kid Vicious” Garrett and Emma “Hudson” Hudson. They tried out during Spring Loaded, the Brats annual skating and open scrimmage event, and will be competing on the Northeastern team, the Nor’Easters.

If your only knowledge of roller derby is the fictional television series RollerGames or Roller Jam, know that derby, as it exists today, is a non-scripted competitive contact sport.

Ellen Page’s film Whip It is a closer representation to how derby exists today, but the Brats play on a flat track and according to a laughing Hudson, “There’s a lot less punching!”

“We don’t skate on banked tracks because they’re expensive to make and maintain,” explained Garrett.

One visit to Pittsburgh Derby Brats practice at the Neville Roller Drome reveals the sport’s unique character. Skaters wear patterned knee socks, some sport fishnets and funky hair colors and each helmet features stickers personal to each athlete.

Derby is a sport with a distinct spirit and personality. Its athletes form sibling-like bonds with each other, despite the fact that they spend most of practice doing drills that require aggressively blocking and challenging.

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Credit Megan Fair / 90.5 WESA
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90.5 WESA
Kristin "Piston V8" Cunzolo says she's ready to represent Pittsburgh at the Junior Olympics in Nebraska.

“My favorite part about derby is being able to express yourself, there’s no room for judgment,” said Hudson, who will move on to adult derby in the fall. “I feel like [my teammates] are kind of my little siblings.”

“I feel like we’re a big family,” added Garrett. “The aggression is fun, too.”  

Garrett, Hudson, Cunzolo and Ryan were 4 of the 70 girls who tried out for the Olympic team at Spring Loaded. The tryout included drills to demonstrate skating skills, problem solving abilities and derby chops. All four expressed how nervous they felt.

“I was so nervous, I wanted it so bad,” said Ryan, “I just had to remind myself that I’m doing this for fun, this is what I love to do, I just have to stay calm.”

I was so nervous. I wanted it so badly. - Sydney "Smashberry Skatecake" Ryan

All were relieved to get the news they’d been selected.

“It’s an honor to get in,” said Garrett.

Though they are just 4 Brats of the about 50 total in Pittsburgh, their teammates will be on the minds of the competing athletes.

“Learning off of it and being able to bring skills back to my team excites me,” said Cunzolo.

In addition to six hours of Brats practice a week, the girls skate at skateparks or outside their homes in addition to Brats practice, revealing their dedication to the sport. Being a junior olympian is the culmination of all that hard work.

For four junior Olympic athletes, the crew competing seem down to earth and passionate about their sport. They spend time at practice laughing, joking and bonding.

Traveling to compete in the Olympics is an expensive investment. To help pay for their travel, lodging, food and uniform and gear expenses, each girl has a GoFundMe. They will travel to Lincoln, NE to compete July 11-13.