PUBLISHED OCT. 27, 2016
By ANDREA SHAY
Valeri Borstelmann is a founding member of the Bradentucky Bombers, Bradenton’s all-female roller derby team. She’s been around since the beginning and during games she goes by the name “Gigi RaMoan.” She sat down with me for an interview over the weekend about the team and its history.
When I asked Borstelmann how the team got started, she surprised me by saying she had seen a documentary about roller derby girls in Texas. She thought to herself, “Wow, I bet I could do that!” She remembers being excited and thinking of times when she was young and was able to perform skating tricks like crossovers and complicated moves.
“Its a good way to stay in shape,” Borstelmann said. When I asked why she got interested in roller derby as opposed to other things, she said “I always wanted to do a contact sport.” Borstelmann said that her father and brother had participated in karate but she was never given the opportunity to get into contact sports.
She laughs remembering the group’s first practice at GT Bray Park. “We didn’t have any helmets. Our friend was a skateboarder and brought us a bunch of mismatched pads. We basically just played chicken with no mouth guards, no helmets, no elbow pads,” said Borstelmann. “Some of us had wrist pads but not everybody. We were in, like, jean shorts, [which are] so not good for sports.”
Later they tried a parking garage, which also did not work out, and they ultimately ended up booking a permanent practice and bout venue at Astro Skate and Fun Center.
Borstelmann says that there’s an important social aspect, too. The women on the team are friends and hang out together outside of the sport as well.
“Girls who move here from out of town can make an instant community,” Borstelmann said. “Or we’ve had people move away and join another derby team and then have a group to hang out with, go to events [with].
“The girls on the team come from all walks of life. We wouldn’t have probably met at all if it weren’t for derby. We all have different day jobs, different lives, but we all still get along and support each other.
“It’s kind of a nice alternative to the idea that women are catty and that groups of women can’t support each other. Well, yes we can. That was kind of a pre-conceived notion that I had going in. I just assumed that’s how it was. It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve had our share of drama, but right now the team is the best it’s ever been.”
Learn more about the team, buy tickets and find their schedule at bradentuckybombers.com. Home bouts are at Astro Skate and Fun Center, 3611 3rd. St. West, Bradenton. Visit their Facebook page by searching for the Bradentucky Bombers.