Cyclone Slam tells her story of overcoming remarkable obstacles to compete
The first time I showed up at the GTA Rollergirls fresh meat intake, everyone told me I was a natural. This was news to me.
I came from Lewisville, Texas just outside of Dallas. I was born with my feet turned in and have scoliosis. I spent my first couple of years as a young child learning how to walk properly, wearing different kinds of casts to help straighten my legs and feet, and plenty of funny looking shoes. So we didn’t expect athletics to be in my future. That didn’t stop my obsession with watching ice skating on TV, though.
The first time I put on roller skates I was about 4 years old and in pre-school. Of course I fell so hard I dislocated my shoulder. I stumbled around acting like nothing was wrong until my teacher came over and noticed me holding my arm. They took me off the skating floor, as I protested and cried because I wanted to keep skating. After that I was addicted!
Once my shoulder got better I begged my parents to put me in skating lessons. They thought I was too young, but a few years later finally gave in. They enrolled me in Learn To Skate classes. I was horrible so I pleaded them for private lessons and did extra chores at home and little side jobs around the neighbourhood to show them I was serious and responsible. It worked and I was so excited to start my private lessons.
From ages 8 to 14 I competed in artistic roller skating, and both quad and inline speed skating. I also found a love for performance arts, which went hand in hand with the athleticism I was picking up, along with some invaluable physiotherapy for my feet, legs and back. Many coaches had told me that I would never excel at skating or dance because I didn’t have a good turn out with my hips and feet; I wasn’t a natural. But my parents never discouraged me; they always reaffirmed I could do it, even if it took a little longer and I had to try things over and over again ‘til I got it.
Throughout the years, I trained professionally in ballet, modern dance, ballroom, rhythmic gymnastics and hip hop. I even finally lived out my childhood dream, competing in ice skating and ice dancing until I turned 18. I also found a new love of coaching, which allowed me to give back to the sports I loved and had set me free.
In 2005 I decided to take a leap and move to Toronto, Canada to pursue a fashion design degree at Ryerson University. By then I was so burnt out from competing and being a full-time student, I put my skates away for a bit, though would teach a few lessons from time to time.
Nearly 10 years later in 2014, I found roller derby. My competitive spirit came alive again and I was reunited with my skates. It was a new challenge, and it felt good to be back on eight wheels. But my physical challenges I worked so hard to overcome as a child weren’t over: a year in, I tore my ACL at a scrimmage. I was devastated when my doctor told me the news.
I had been here before. After reconstructive surgery in June 2016, I dedicated myself to healing, and when I was ready, to intense workouts and physio to get back to where I was. While I built my strength back up, I took the opportunity to help out on the sidelines with my derby teammates and the league at games and tournaments.
I’ve worked harder than I ever have to get back in shape so I can continue competing and play this new sport that I love. But an equally rewarding experience has been the opportunity I’ve had to help coach our new freshies and run our fresh meat program for the past fall and winter seasons. It’s been an honour coaching them and I can’t wait to see them play at the Fresh and the Furious tournament in July!
To be honest, the hardest thing for me coming back from an injury was the mental part. I was (and still am) afraid of hurting my knee. Sometimes it’s hard to tell between good pain and bad pain. But my teammates and coaches have been very supportive with my injury, and have been there for me when I needed them. I am so grateful that I have this community in my life.
So here I am healed and ready to get back on the track, wiser and hopefully stronger. My advice to other skaters is to try your hardest, no matter what: some things may not come as naturally to you, but that’s okay. Work it ‘til you got nothing left! Even if you have to try it over and over ‘til you get it, that’s fine. Trust me, your effort will be rewarded. Life may throw you obstacles to jump over, you might fall, you might get hurt. But just get back up and go with it!