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A big success: Oborotova has seen roller derby grow at Sask.

“When I joined, we called it ‘WWE for rollerskating.’ But now it’s more athletic, more competitive. ”

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Anastasia Oborotova doesn’t remember the first time she heard about roller derby.

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But she remembers the first time she connected with her first club. It was her 2007, at a punk show in London, Ontario, when she ran into a stranger who was a mosh skater in her pit and got an invitation to her next practice.

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“I don’t know what ticked off the Derby,” she says.

After spending some time as a rookie, Oborotova was the first to emerge on the scene. Less than two years after she put on her skates and crash pads, she started attending her clinic in Las Vegas for training.

Fifteen years later, she is now a member of Regina’s Pile O’ Bones Derby Club (PBDC) skating under alter ego Carmen Dragon #27.

Oborotwa-san laughs every time he explains the origin.

It comes from a nickname she’s used over the years and traces back to her passion for her side as a singer – a nod to the parentage of Daryl Dragon, who was the captain of the musical duo and the male half of Tennille. (His mother’s name was Carmen Dragon).

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Furthermore, she adds that “dragons are kind of scary,” which fits the Derby brand very well.

Oborotova plays a flat track roller derby. Two teams of five skaters compete on an oval track in a game called a jam, which consists of two 30-minute games that are divided into two-minute plays.

In these matches, each team’s jammers break through crowds of skaters to lap opposing players and try to score points. Blockers in that pack try to stop it.

The physicality of the sport was Oborotova’s first attraction, but what really bothered her was the complexity of the game.

“In the first season or so, I was like, ‘This is so different.’ It hurt in places I never imagined, and it was exciting,” she says. “The more I got into it, the more I realized there was a lot to learn. I want to do it. It became a mental challenge. ”

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Oborotova is a pivot, a blocker with the ability to tag out mid-jam and replace the primary jammer. This is a position that requires intense track awareness, rapid strategic planning, and constant analysis in the midst of gameplay chaos.

“You can’t take your eyes off the action,” she says. “A coach once told me that playing roller derby is like a sharp knife. there is.”

Oborotova is a former captain of the PBDC Sugar Skulls travel team and joined state team Sask in 2013.

She currently serves as Coach, Referee and Acting Chair of the PBDC, as well as Team Sask’s Assistant Coach and Chief Referee.

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According to Oborotova, there’s no training like a jam, and nothing beats the rush of competition to dominate the track.

“The derby is what gives me confidence. It makes me feel strong,” she says. “It’s magic. It’s absolute magic.”

These factors and a close-knit culture have led her to spend nearly half her life skating.

“It just became fun. The camaraderie, the friendships I was building,” she says. “It’s become a very safe place for me.”

When Oborotova talks about the Derby, it’s clear why she moved from Ontario to Alberta with no plans other than crashing into fellow skaters’ couches and hitting the track with her new team.

“I was skating before I stayed,” she says with a laugh. I put everything in the garage.”

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Roller derby is far from its reputation as the smash-and-bash of skating that emerged in the ’70s, celebrated in movies like Kansas City Bomber, Rollerball, and New Generation Whip It.

That image of the Derby is one of racy names, wounded aggression, and brazen entertainment in which women in shorts hurl profanity at each other.

“When I joined, we called it ‘WWE for rollerskating,'” Oborotova jokes. “But now it’s more athletic, more competitive.”

Sure, skaters still play under clever and weird names, and some pretty dangerous full-contact action, but Derby has taken honest steps to legitimize it as a sport since the 2000s.

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Anastasia Oborotova (center) has been refereeing roller derby for as long as she's been skating and regularly contributes her expertise in the Saskatchewan league. (Courtesy of ANASTASSIA OBOROTOVA/ANJA WINTERGREEN)
Anastasia Oborotova (center) has been refereeing roller derby for as long as she’s been skating and regularly contributes her expertise in the Saskatchewan league. (Courtesy of ANASTASSIA OBOROTOVA/ANJA WINTERGREEN) Photo by Anja Wintergreen /attached

Obotova moved to Saskatchewan in 2012 after an undefeated season with the Edmonton team. PBDC has been running since 2008, but Derby was still in its infancy when she arrived in Regina.

Coming from a big league that has traveled a lot, it was something of a culture shock.

Obotova was here when the two biggest clubs, Saskatoon and Regina, entered the National League and joined the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

It changed the quality of the game — for the better.

“People’s morale has changed in Saskatchewan,” she says. “And exposure to better roller derby has heightened my desire to improve my skills and raised the level of my game.”

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The Derby continues to expand and become more inclusive, with co-ed and under-18 junior teams. Before the pandemic, there were 15 clubs statewide.

Saskatchewan athletes have ranked in the top 10 nationally, competed internationally, and even landed on Team Canada’s roster as skaters and coaches.

Oborotova capped off her fast-paced career by joining Team Russia in the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in Manchester, England. The Russian-born athlete retired from competitive skating shortly thereafter.

Oborotova still feels a deep love for the sport whenever she looks back on her time as a hard-hitting, points-scoring Derby skater. Nor does she plan to “cut the skates” anytime soon.

Roller skating is a way of life, and she plays a role behind the scenes in keeping the league alive.

“What we love about Derby, we love it dearly,” she adds. “The friendships I’ve made are for a lifetime. I met my life partner outside of my contract. I love it.”

lkurz@postmedia.com

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A big success: Oborotova has seen roller derby grow at Sask.

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