Atom Bombshell

© Richard Lafortune

© Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell laces up her skates for two teams in the Halifax Roller Derby Association: Las Bandidas Locas (league) and the Harbour Grudges (travel squad). I know she’s a happy human who studies hard, loves a quality brew, and adores glitter. But I wanted to find out more about two serious issues: the derby injury that took her out of this season both physically and mentally, and her media involvement in addressing the St. Mary’s University “rape chant.”

In life and on the track, she’s light, lively and sets a pace tough to follow. This is Atom Bombshell.

Pepe LePunch: Where was your neighbourhood growing up?

Atom Bombshell: I’m from a small, isolated railroad community in Northern Ontario called Hornepayne – about 1,100 km northwest of Toronto, for perspective.

PLP: What was your athletic history before joining roller derby?


AB: I figure skated from the time I was four until I broke my ankle as a young teen and never went back. I usually sat out in gym class and didn’t really have much interest in organized sports until derby.

london violet femmes

Atom Bombshell skating with the Violet Femmes out of London, ON // © Sean Murphy

PLP: With not much interest in sports, what led you into roller derby?

AB: My interest was piqued as I was living in Minneapolis and saw the community surrounding the MN Rollergirls. I was only 16 at the time, though, and had to wait another two years until I was both back in Canada and old enough to join a league. I started out with the London Violet Femmes in London, Ontario, and shortly after turning 18 I was playing regional tournaments in the London/Kitchener/Toronto area.

PLP: You’re a jammer. What’s your thought process as you approach the back of the pack?

AB: My thoughts are usually focused on where the other jammer is, because her position determines what my approach will be.

PLP: What’s your strength or best attribute/move out on the track?

AB: I’m speedy and nimble. I’m not too difficult to knock over; the hard part is trying to catch me.

PLP: I believe you might be the youngest captain in the region. What exactly earned you co-captain status of Las Bandidas Locas?

AB: When Block ‘n’ Deck Her was elected captain, she had the idea to form a strong leadership team with two co-captains: myself and Clutch Cannon.

hrda

© Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: You’re enrolled at SMU in Halifax. What are you studying?

AB: I double-major in anthropology and criminology, and I’m finishing up a diploma in forensic science as well.

PLP: Why are you pursuing so many interests?

AB: I love studying such a diverse range because every day is different – one day I’m out digging up bones, the next I’m playing with chimp skeletons, and the next I’m out in the community doing ethnographic research on labour.

PLP: Speaking of community, you were very involved in the SMU chant debacle. What radio/TV press did you do?

AB: Oh, wow, that’s a big question. Haha. I did about three or four regional press interviews a day, so I don’t remember all the specifics. The more memorable stuff was the interview with MacLean’s magazine, The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, and a radio show panel for a talk show out in Vancouver.

PLP: Why do you feel people should be more engaged in addressing an event such as that chant?

AB: Because it’s a systemic issue that affects everyone, not an isolated incident or just a campus problem. The culture surrounding rape and victim-blaming and the flippant attitude towards them can ensnare anyone, and it’s a really easy attitude to fall into.

PLP: You suffered a derby-related head injury in March. What happened?

AB: It happened in a split second. It was an accident in practice. I landed hard on my tailbone and my neck snapped forward, giving me severe whiplash and rattling my brain pretty hard.

PLP: I watched you play at Slay of Fundy in June 2013 and didn’t suspect anything. Do you still feel repercussions from the concussion?

AB: I do. My mental health has certainly suffered, so I’ve been extremely cautious and follow up with my doctor as often as I can. Slay was actually my wake-up call to be more careful. I didn’t even play my games in full because I got uncharacteristically anxious and really easily frustrated, but I see a therapist to work through some of those symptoms. Marc Henwood actually captured a really crazy picture of me kneeling and crying on the track that I still can’t really look at, but it’s comforting when I’m reminded that I actually got up from it and continued playing.

on knee on track

Atom Bombshell recovers from a play at Slay of Fundy 2013 // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: What challenges confront you after a serious injury like this?

AB: It’s been a long process of recovery, and I’m slated to return to practices this month. For me, it’s been the combination of keeping up with my doctor, my therapist, my physiotherapist and my coaches that’s kept me accountable and healthy and working towards coming back fully. I played two for-fun bouts with the Halifax Misfits over the summer and seemed to be making a lot of progress, so I’m hoping to be back in full swing for the next Winter Warpath.

PLP: I really enjoy the Halifax-Fredericton games as they’re close competitions. Do you have a favourite rival team to play? Or player?

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Edith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Édith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

AB: My favourite team on the east coast to play would have to be Fredericton [Capital City Rollers], actually. I’ve faced them on three occasions, and I’m always both impressed and terrified. I love skating against Édith Paf, because she’s a really intense opponent and always challenges me, and because our off-track relationship is so friendly that the dynamic is really always fun.

PLP: The HRDA players always seem so positive and friendly, even on the jam line with opponents. I often wonder what you guys say to opponents out there during a bout. 

AB: We’re usually discussing the afterparty and how we’re going to be the victors of it. Or, I’m discussing how badly I can’t wait to eat pizza and watch TV at the hotel!

PLP: I appreciate your time and candor, Atom Bombshell. As always, the afterparty in these interviews is the 5 in 25.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) Can you tell about a couple of your hobbies or after-work activities?

AB: I embroider vulgar rap lyrics onto throw pillows sometimes. I like to go dancing 
and fishing and enjoy late nights in the lab.

PLP: (#2) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

AB: I make all my own beauty products in my kitchen. It’s why I smell so pretty on 
the jam line.

PLP: (#3) What is your favourite food and/or drink?  

AB: I love fancy burgers and birthday cake and bitter, hoppy beer. Preferably all at 
once.

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album?

AB: I can’t stop listening to Childish Gambino’s Camp album right now.

PLP: (#5) Which well-known figure do you most admire?

AB: Jane Goodall is a badass.

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

Loose N Lawless

Loose N Lawless

© Roy Crawford Photography

Loose N Lawless skates in Fredericton’s Capital City Rollers league. Her talent as a roller derby player also qualifies her to bout with CCR’s travel team, the Daisy Cutters.

You’ll spot her on the track for the final jam of close games. The blocker also contributed greatly to the team’s fourth-place finish at the recent Muddy River Murder tournament in Moncton (July 6 & 7, 2013), where she earned Most Valuable Player (Blocker) in two of the team’s six matches. 

As an original member of Fredericton’s league, and a highly likeable and eloquent individual, I figured people should be introduced to CCR’s #88.

Pepe LePunch: How did you get involved in roller derby?

Loose N Lawless: Approximately three or four years ago I was attending CrossFit, a local gym here in town, and one of the members mentioned the fact that roller derby was coming to Fredericton.

PLP: You became a founding member of Capital City Rollers in 2010? 

LNL: I didn’t actually found the league but I’m one of a handful of members who are currently in their third season with Capital City Rollers. I was the first president of Capital City Rollers in the 2010-11 season.

PLP: Who are the other skaters that started out with you?

LNL: Édith Paf is the only other skating member at this time from the original season. Actually, Linsanity Lohan has just returned to our league and is once again skating with us. She joined that summer, too.  One of our coaches, Ripya Nu1, who is on maternity leave, is also one of the founding-season members, as well as Mo’Rocko, who is currently on leave from the league.

PLP: I only know Ripya Nu1 as being pregnant; I’ve never seen her on skates.

LNL: She was a force! [laughs]

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

LNL: I’ve always been athletic. I was a competitive synchronized swimmer and also a competitive badminton player.  At both sports, I competed at an Atlantic level during school.  I was also a lifeguard and swimming instructor for 12 years, swam Masters [Swimming Canada] competitively and played rugby.  As an adult, I am an avid downhill skier, and prior to joining roller derby I worked out at CrossFit Fredericton.  So, I’ve always, always been involved in sports.

Loose N Lawless

© Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: You are a blocker for the team. What is your best move on the track? (I think I already know the answer…)

LNL: My best move is a full body check, taking girls off the track. I generally don’t focus on hips or shoulders (although I know sometimes I should), I generally use my full body. I’d say that’s my signature move, if you will. [laughs] I’m not much of an agility or finesse skater, although we’re constantly working on our weaknesses. But I am quite effective at taking a girl off the track.

PLP: Can you explain why it’s so important to move a player not just down but off the track?

LNL: When you move a roller derby player off the track, the only way that they can re-enter the track is in back of the person that put them off the track. What’s even more important when you move them off is to back up. It takes them longer to get back on the track so your skaters have one less person to deal with for just a little while longer.

PLP: What would you say is more important for a blocker: size or fitness level?

LNL: I’d definitely say fitness and comfort on skates. Good blockers come in all shapes and sizes. What makes a true blocker fantastic is knowledge of the game and agility and comfort on skates. I’ve seen tiny blockers able to contain giant players because they have a knowledge of physics and the game. They’re very comfortable on their skates and they work with their centre of gravity.

PLP: I consider [CCR player] Penny Traitor a great blocker because, although she’s lithe, once she puts a player out she skates back very fast.

LNL: Yes, and she’s very agile. So, somebody like Penny Traitor, who’s tall and thin, when she bumps somebody off the track she has that immediate burst of reaction to spring back 10 feet and drag the other player back 10 feet.

PLP: What’s your favourite thing about playing with this team?

LNL: Fredericton is known for its sense of fair play and its great attitude on and off the track. Wherever the Capital City Rollers go, we’re greeted with open arms and we’re greeted with high-fives because we’ve truly become friends with most of the other leagues.

Punchy O'Guts

Punchy O’Guts (second from left) with Black Eye Candy, Penny Traitor and Édith Paf (Daisy Cutters) // © Ramo M [hckygrl]

PLP: Your team is unique in that you don’t have a regular coach. Saint John, Moncton, Halifax… they’ve got regulars. Who’s been coaching you recently?

LNL: In the past year we’ve gone with a different model. We’ve hired a coach called Amy Martin. Her derby name is Punchy O’Guts and she skated with the Port Authorities. [The Port Authorities are Maine Roller Derby‘s WFTDA-sanctioned “all-star” team.]. Punchy is sent video footage of our team and has been coaching at a distance for about 10 months. She travels to coach us for the week leading up to a game or tournament and provides us with a post-game strategy.

PLP: You’ve also been coached by the famous (infamous?) Lime.

LNL: That’s right. We’re not refusing any help. When and if there’s a visiting roller derby coach in the area we take advantage as there’s always something we can learn. When Coach Lime has been in the area before we’ve hired him. We’ve also spent some time with Bonnie D. Stroir [of San Diego Derby Dolls], Shirley N. Sane [founder of Roller Derby University] and Georgia W. Tush [of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and owner of Neon Skates], which are all notable roller derby players or coaches. They’ve given us various parts of the game to work with. We also have a coaching committee comprised of skaters that have stepped up to provide interim coaching for us, but what we don’t have is a regular off-skates coach the way a lot of other leagues do.

PLP: Has your family seen you compete?

LNL: My son has seen me play roller derby several times. He thinks it’s a marvelous thing and he always tells me that I need to hit all the girls and make them fall.

PLP: Yep. You’re teaching him a great lesson.

LNL: Right. And my parents have seen me play once…

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

PLP: I remember this game. [laughs]

LNL: … during which time I was ejected for a gross misconduct. [LNL bumped an opposing player while entering the penalty area. Whether intentional or accidental, rules declare this a “gross misconduct” and the player is ejected from the game.]

PLP: What was a highlight for your folks?

LNL: What they would say was a highlight, aside from the ejection, is that they really underestimated the amount of skill that has been acquired by roller derby leagues throughout Canada in the last three years. They had watched roller derby on TV as Rogers covered it on a few occasions and I remember their comment being, “Everybody just falls down all the time.” When they came to our game [Daisy Cutters versus Moncton’s Daughters of Anarchy; May 4, 2013] they actually saw that the skill level has increased extraordinarily over the past three years. There are actual plays and strategy and there’s a significant amount of skating skill. They were struck by that; they said it repeatedly.

PLP: What’s your favourite derby memory? We discussed Winter Warpath 2013 recently. 

LNL: Winter Warpath, yes. [LNL earned the third-place medal with teammate Epileptrick in the skills competition.] I think my favourite moments change all the time.  My most recent favourite derby memory is that I developed a friendship with Annie Biotix, a skater from Prince Edward Island. As soon as we finished our game against Moonshine Maidens at Muddy River Murder, and we were still doing that post-game congratulatory handshake-slash-hug, I looked up at her because I knew she was getting Most Valuable Player (Blocker) and I said to her, “Listen up, you’re going to hear your name.” And she looked at me and said, “Listen up, you’re going to hear YOUR name.” And it was a wonderful recognition that we’ve both come so far. It was a moment that combined derby and friendship together. It was incredible. [At Muddy River Murder, each team chose the MVP Jammer and MVP Blocker from the opposing team after each bout.]

PLP: What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

LNL: I played my very first roller derby bout at the age of 35. I hadn’t roller skated (either inline or on roller skates) since the age of 13 and I hadn’t ice skated since my late teens. So, at the age of 34 I bought my first pair of roller skates, and at the age of 35 I played my first bout.

Loose N Lawless

© Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: Yes, I was really surprised about that as I started discovering more about the Fredericton players. #1: Everyone looks younger than they are (good answer, me). And #2: Based on ability, I assumed people had been skating six or seven years; I then I found out they first put on the skates 12 months prior.

LNL: I mean, we have some skaters that have figure skating background or hockey backgrounds but we have just as many if not more that had roller skated or ice skated a little bit as a kid but just decided that this was something they really wanted to do. The first time I strapped on roller skates I had to use the walls at the Capital Exhibition Centre to hold me up. In three short years I’ve gone from using the walls…

PLP: To putting players into the walls.

LNL: Yeah, hitting players into the walls and being on the track at every game.

PLP: Do you have a favourite rival team?

LNL: The number one and two teams in the region: Saint John and Moncton. We learn so much when we play them.

PLP: Let’s end with favourite song at the moment.

LNL: A pretty popular summer song is “I Love It” by Icona Pop. It embodies our group of girls and probably a fair amount of derby girls. One thing that most derby girls have in common is that they throw caution and convention to the wind, and they throw general stereotypes to the wind to strap on a pair of skates and have some fun.