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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/All-star team rolls to fourth international derby championship

COURTESY PHOTO: CAPOBIANCO PHOTOGRAPHY - Members of the victorious Wheels of Justice (above) celebrate their latest world title with the Hyrda Trophy at the Womens Flat Track Roller Derby championships in Montreal.When push came to shove, there was no chance for opponents to separate the Rose City Rollers from the Hydra Trophy.

Portland is the home of the Women's Flat Track Roller Derby Association world champion for a fourth time after the Rollers' Wheels of Justice all-star team dominated three matches at the WFTDA International Championships.

The tournament took place Nov. 15-17 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and there was little suspense about its outcome.

The second consecutive championship for the Rose City Rollers was secured with a 145-65 finals thumping of Gotham Girls Roller Derby from New York City.

That followed a 205-50 win over Philly Roller Derby in the quarterfinals and a 155-95 win over Arch Rival Roller Derby of St. Louis in the semifinals.

"We prepared so thoroughly for this tournament with many counter strategies to what we expected to see from our opponents. We focused on picking up where the last game ended," Wheels of Justice captain Bonnie Thunders said. "The team kept getting more cohesive with every game. I could not be more proud of every member of this team."

By rolling through the world championships, the Wheels of Justice finished 2019 with a record of 10-0, its first undefeated season.

Thunders, whose real name is Nicole Williams, led Rose City with 31 points in the championship game, taking advantage of some strong blocking from teammates such as Tarantula and Simonis.

The Rollers' defense was sturdy, holding the Gotham Girls scoreless on six of the final seven jams to finish the championship match.

"Our whole team performed almost flawlessly," Thunders said.

Loren Mutch and Beyond ThunderDame (real name Alexis D'Asaro) had big tournaments as jammers.

Beyond ThunderDame stepped into a more prominent role after Brute (Claire Chin) was injured before the tournament.

"She was absolutely killer all weekend," Thunders said about Beyond ThunderDame.

Except for a couple of changes because of injury, the roster for this year's championship run was mostly unchanged from the team that won the 2018 Hydra Trophy. That familiarity allowed the Wheels of Justice to build momentum entering the championships and respond to quickly respond to changes in opponents' tactics, Thunders said.

Beating Gotham Girls in the championship game was special for Thunders. Before moving to Portland three years ago, Thunders was a key cog for five Gotham Girls world championships. This win means Thunders has skated for a record seven championship teams.

"I was really happy to see Gotham back in the champs game after being out of it for two years," Thunders said. "Of course, it's especially emotional to play them in the title game, but I'm just really proud of them for their continued hard work and success." 

The New York City team won four consecutive titles 2011-14 with Thunders playing a key role. Gotham Girls has won five of the 14 WFTDA world championships, but Rose City has become the dominant force in the sport.

The Wheels of Justice has won four of the last five titles and been in the championship match six consecutive seasons.

With that kind of success and with the one-sided scores this year, a report on WFTDA.com about the championship game wondered if these Rollers are the best team in the organization's 14 years of world championship tournaments.

This was the first WFTDA World Championships held outside the United States. The tournament featured 10 teams that qualified either based on their WFTDA ranking (top four) or through a qualifying tournament. Eight of the 10 teams were from the United States. The host team from Montreal and the No. 3-seeded Victorian Roller Derby from Australia also competed.

Victorian was the team Rose City defeated for the 2018 world title, a game the Portland team entered as underdogs in the rankings.

After their dominance in Montreal, Rose City Rollers are clearly the top dogs of derby. 

The Wheels of Justice all-star team is made up of players from the four adult teams that compete in the Rose City Rollers league. That local 2020 season begins in January, but several exhibition matches featuring players from the championship team are scheduled in the coming weeks at The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park.

The Rose City Rollers program includes two levels of junior teams and an adult recreation-level league.

The Rose City Rollers continue to search for land or an existing building for their program because The Hangar's spectator capacity and long-term viability is limited by fire marshal restrictions. The Rollers have teamed with Rock'N'Roll Camp for Girls, a music nonprofit, in their search for a permanent facility.

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@pauldanzer


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