Brutal competitors go head to head on the track at the Duke City Derby's first Season Championship
Neither Kamikaze Kim nor Muffin have illusions about their assets—or their liabilities.
"I have more speed than a bigger girl," says Kim Saito, jammer for the Doomsdames. "I get knocked around a lot easier."
Saito, 31, is about 5 feet tall and weighs in at around 110 pounds. Her rival, the Derby Intelligence Agency's Caitlin Krause (aka Muffin), is 22 years old, 175 pounds and has about six inches of height on Saito. But Muffin, too, knows her rival well. "She can slip through smaller holes than I can," Krause says of Saito. "Her center of gravity is lower, so she stays up." But Krause can take harder hits, "and I deliver harder hits." They're heading into the Duke City Derby's Season Championship on Saturday, Oct. 14, as crowd favorites.
So what's a jammer? It works like this:
At the start of a "jam," or short race, a whistle blows and four blockers from each team begin skating. Another whistle blows, and the jammers begin skating. Their job is to get through the pack of blockers while at the same time preventing their opponent from doing so. Breaking through the pack is how they score.
"My favorite analogy," says Krause, "is that it's like any sport where there's a ball, but in this case, the jammer is the ball." Jammers are passed around by teammates and hit by opponents. Though teams usually have three or four primary jammers, Muffin and Kamikaze Kim have become the main scorers for their teams. And they differ in more than size.
Krause is a showboater, a ham. "It annoys everyone in the league, but the crowd loves it," she says. She blows kisses to the pack if she makes an easy pass. If she slips by the blockers unnoticed, she's been known to pantomime an exaggerated, shocked face to the audience. Saito, on the other hand, lets her skating do the talking. Her showmanship, she says, is rooted in her skill, her tricks, her agility. "Muffin's a great competitor," Saito says. "Whenever we skate against each other, we're skating to win. We're skating to kill each other. It pushes me to skate harder."
In spite of their contrasting approaches and attitudes, Muffin and Kamikaze Kim have one thing in common—they fear injury.
"It's terrifying," says Krause. The Doomsdames boast a blocker named Bullet Tooth Tracy that's got a rep nationwide. At RollerCon, a national convention, Tracy put a girl in the hospital off a completely legal hit, Krause says. "They all have worked so hard," she adds. "At any given practice, there's more Doomsdames than anyone else. They win because they are a team of great players."
Injuries are always in the back of Saito's mind as well. "There are a lot of girls in our league who are playing on really bad knees. Injuries are there, and they're very real. I worry about it but try not to let it paralyze me."
The Doomsdames will roll into the match undefeated. They've faced the DIA twice this season and emerged victorious both times. Krause knows Saito's stats and is intimately familiar with her skill level. About a month ago, Krause and Saito spent a few weeks training together as part of the league's travel team, the Muñecas Muertas, which reigned victorious over the 5280 Fight Club in Denver. Fight Club took the "Dead Dolls" to the wire before resigning to defeat, 108-91, on Sept. 30. As an added benefit, training side by side gave Krause and Saito a pretty close look at each other's weaknesses. Since the co-training was so recent, "Nobody's had any time to develop any new tricks," Krause says.
For all their tough talk, there's a lot of mutual respect between the Doomsdames and the Derby Intelligence Agency, according to Saito. "The games we've played against each other have always been the greatest games."