That is what I feel for the skater named Craisy Dukes.
In 2010 I skated against Providence Roller Derby and I remember watching a skater in cut off denim shorts warming up. Many of us commented that it would be unpleasant to play in denim shorts. Our coach replied, “Not if you don’t fall down.” And she didn’t fall. And we couldn’t stop her. And I was in awe. It was possibly my worst game ever, statistically (and personally).
In 2011, she had incurred an injury shortly before our game was scheduled. I was so disappointed that I did not get a chance to see how much I had improved by testing my skills against her. In 2012, in her house, I got my chance.
She had lost none of her balance, her edging, her cat-like ability to duck, skip and curve around opposing players. She was just as fast as I remembered, and on top of that, she handled the polished concrete as if it were a tacky wood floor. Every stride was perfect, and every hit could knock you off your skates. Whether she was blocking or jamming, you would know exactly where she was on the floor.
Though the game did not go on the positive side for my league, there were a few highlights. 1) With some anchoring provided by Madhouse Mexi, she and I were able to control Craisy Dukes (once) and force her to call off the jam without gaining our points. 2) I was able to control her with some positional blocking on my own. 3) I got lead jammer over her a couple times. 4) I had the honor of being named MVP with her for that bout.
Aside from being one of the best skaters I’ve ever shared the track with, she is also one of the funniest, kindest, and most humble people I’ve ever met. She has a passion for derby and a deep respect for the work that every skater has put into their derby craft – whether it is their first bout or their 100th. Her compassion and hospitality is just how PRD rolls, though. She fits right in with some of the nicest people I have ever met.
Congrats to Craisy Dukes for earning the MVP for the 2012 New England All Star team and for also receiving the most votes of any New England skater. I cannot wait to see what you do in 2013.
In her signature cutoff denim shorts, Craisy Dukes is one of the skaters everyone has heard about. She stands out on the track as both an excellent jammer and blocker, and is incredibly effective regardless of where she is in the pack. When I skated against Providence with HARD this past June, the single most intimidating part of the bout was lining up on the jammer line for the very first jam and having to face off against Dukes. I remember a giant sinking feeling in my gut as all of my nerves came out of nowhere. As I’m busy freaking out in my head because I’m jamming against Craisy Dukes, she smiles at me, fist bumps me, and asks me if I’m ready and how I’m feeling. The bout was incredibly difficult and challenging, and Providence totally whooped our butts, but I was able to learn a lot about the sport by (trying) to follow behind Dukes and imitate as much of her skating style as I could. – Mystery Violence Theatre, Garden State Rollergirls (Formerly of Harrisburg Area Roller Derby)
Thank you to photogs George Ross Sports Photography and Jeffrey Kerekes for the photos used in this article.
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