The NEMO Viqueens bring roller derby to the Heartland
To everyone else she's Kelsey Johnson, but once she puts on the helmet and the skates she becomes â??Cyclops.â??
â??I had retinoblastoma cancer as a kid so I really am a cyclops,â?? explains Johnson. â??I can only see out of one eye.â??
Cyclops is just one of about a dozen women who are members of the NEMO Viqueens roller derby team...and they've all got a name. Thereâ??s Guillotina, Greenhouse Gashes, Mutant Gene, Disorient Xpress and Smthng Shiny (â??she left out all the vowels so the announcers get really tripped up,â?? says a smiling Johnson).
Having a cool name is nothing if you canâ??t skate and take a hit. Fortunately that's not a problem for these ladies.
"At derby you can be as competitive as you want to be. You can be as rough and tumble as you want to be. You don't get into trouble,â?? says Johnson, whoâ??s actually pretty nice when sheâ??s not slamming you into a wall.
"There is a little bit of satisfaction when the timing is just perfect and you lay someone flat out,â?? agrees Jennifer â??PyroCrashticâ?? Nothdurft, science teacher by day and Viqueens blocker by night. â??It's kind of an adrenaline rush. You feel it a little bit the next day, but it's fun and exciting. They give it back just as good as we give it. So if you're on the giving end you're going to be on the receiving end just as well."
Roller derby has evolved a lot over the years, but that doesn't mean it's any less competitive.
Says Nothdurft, "I think what's neat is our team gives back to the community. It's not what it was in the 70â??s where I used to watch it before church with my grandad with hair pulling and biting and blood. But it's still a very physical sport and we're serious. It's just a lot of fun and it's something that's family friendly."
The Viqueens were founded in 2013, and play games against teams within a 400 mile radius of Northeast Missouri. Cities in Iowa, Illinois and Southern Missouri have all faced the wrath of the Viqueens.
Saturday night, July 19th, will be their first home game in almost four months. It takes place at the Kirksville High School Gym and players want a raucous atmosphere.
"I want the crowd to have fun. Our very first bout ever it was like the Thunderdome in the school gym,â?? Johnson says. â??I just want to see tons of people there. Make it loud, make it a Thunderdome again. Really just get pumped about your hometown girls."
Doors open at 6:00 pm and the action starts at 7:00. Tickets are $10 and kids seven and under get in free.
The Viqueens are always looking for fresh meat. Women of all skill levels are encouraged to stop by Wednesday nights for an open practice at Leisure World. For more information, check out the Viqueenâ??s Twitter or Facebook pages.