The Best Roller Derby World Cup Photos
Our awards for the best images of the Roller Derby World Cup
The 2018 Roller Derby World Cup, held in Manchester, England from February 1 to February 4, was a spectacle of athleticism. 38 teams played 93 games on 4 tracks to determine who was the best in the world.
Dozens of roller derby photographers were there too, capturing tens of thousands of images. Roller derby photographers are all volunteers; a few may make a living from photography, but none take pictures of roller derby for money—they do it out of love and kindness. This does not mean their work has less value—they are a vital part of the roller derby community and the service they provide is essential for the continued growth of the sport. By showing roller derby’s power and elegance, roller derby photographers provide a foundation for almost all the communication that attracts new participants, spectators, and sponsors.
Frogmouth offered official World Cup photographers the opportunity to upload pictures for possible paid use in our marketing communications. 17 photographers accepted. We reviewed their images constantly during the tournament, published more than 80 pictures, and paid the photographers thousands of dollars for licenses.
We also offered them the chance to win cash prizes for the best pictures in three categories and for best overall picture. Below are our shortlists in each category. We announced the category winners on Friday, February 16, and will announce the overall winner on Sunday, February 18.
Best Overall Photo
The single image that best captures the spirit and action of both roller derby in general and the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in particular; an iconic image that will be looked at and remembered for many years.
USA vs Australia by Marko Niemelä. The climax of the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup was an epic final between USA and Australia. This was no great surprise; a few months earlier, Australia’s Victorian Roller Derby League became the first non-US league to win the WFTDA Championship Title, signaling a new era of global competition and Australian ascendence. The World Cup posed a question: could USA’s veteran all stars hold back a powerful surge of new Australian talent? The answer, as Marko’s dramatic picture shows, was yes, but barely. At the next World Cup, the answer may be different: Sarah Chambers, the Australian jammer shown here, will almost certainly be playing but at least one of the USA blockers holding her back, Laci Knight, number 33, will not: Knight was one of several USA athletes who retired at the end of this game.
Best Off Track Photo
This category is for the best picture that shows an important off-track aspect of roller derby: a bench picture, a penalty box picture, a sideline celebration, or a star athlete signing an autograph, stretching, or entering or leaving the tournament location, for example.
Aotearoa by John Hesse. Settler colonialism was a top-of-mind issue at the Roller Derby World Cup. The team from what is commonly known as New Zealand played under their islands’ indigenous name, Aotearoa, giving their pre-bout performances of a traditional Māori war dance, or haka, extra significance. By putting us behind Scotland’s skaters, John’s picture lets us feel the power and fury of an Aotearoa haka.
Costa Rica by Tom Malko. Tom puts us right inside Costa Rica’s huddle with this picture, capturing the power and indefatigable spirit of one of the bravest and proudest teams in the tournament.
Spain by Jason Ruffell. Spain had a lot to play for at this World Cup. They were eliminated early in 2014 due to an unlucky group drawing, and came to Manchester with something to prove. Jason captures their seriousness in this image, taken before their game against the Philippines. They won the game, and finished ninth in the tournament.
Tui Lyon by Marko Niemelä. Australia’s Tui Lyon had one hell of tournament. Marko’s candid portrait captures her joy, confidence, and power. She was named the Tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Argentina by Steph Zakas. Steph’s beautiful image of Argentina singing their national anthem before their game against USA also captures the personality of one of the team’s star players, Hulka, who went on to win the tournament’s MVP Blocker award.
Best Pack Action Photo
This category is for the best picture that shows the pack work that is essential to roller derby by capturing two or more skaters either working together or against one another on the track.
USA vs Australia by Marko Niemelä. The speed and intensity of roller derby is not always obvious from the stands, or on TV. Marko’s picture makes it clear as Australia’s jammer Sarah Chambers battles against a tall, musuclar three person defense from USA. The contrast between the faces of Chambers and USA’s V-Diva (number 18) is a story in itself, and if you like looking for details, see if you can spot both Marilyn Monroes.
Korea vs Iran by Marie Leander. Marie’s perfectly timed image captures a moment of classic roller derby action as Korea’s tripod forces Iran’s jammer out of bounds, and gives a glimpse of the challenge of refereeing pack play. Would you call a low block on White 52?
Australia vs USA by Jason Ruffell. Roller derby happens fast, and the action is often in too many places for the eye to track. Great pack photographs freeze the chaos and tell the story of a jam in a single frame. Jason’s image of Australia and USA does exactly that, showing USA jammer Scald Eagle attacking Australia’s defense while Australia’s jammer Giles does the same to USA, and revealing Giles’s remarkable strength and power as she knocks 68, Slaydie, off her feet.
Aotearoa vs Mexico by Len Rizzo. It’s not always obvious how an elite jammer breaks down a defense. Len’s shot shows Anna Pave-U’Ova of Aotearoa prying Mexico’s four person wall apart with strength, skill, and agility.
Korea vs Ireland by Marie Leander. Sometimes, one roller derby team has to become two roller derby teams: one playing defense, the other playing offense. Marie’s picture captures one of those moments perfectly. Ireland has a blocker in the penalty box, but still divides into a defensive pair and an offensive pair to release its own jammer with the help of well-timed shirt whip while holding Korea’s jammer at bay.
Best Individual Action Photo
This category is for the best picture that clearly highlights an individual in action on the track—anything from a close up portrait, or a shot that calls attention to a single athlete among others.
Semple by Dave Wood. The World Cup was the best attended tournament in roller derby history, and its location in Manchester made it an especially easy trip for the fans from Scotland and Wales, who were rewarded by two close, competitive games between their teams. Dave’s photo shows Scotland jammer Semple proudly and powerfully saluting her fans in the first of those games, and it’s easy to tell who among them is supporting Scotland, and who is supporting Wales.
Davila by Steph Zakas. In theory, roller derby is played on skates, but athletes spend a lot of time in the air or on the ground, especially if they are jammers. Steph captures all the peril of the sport here, freezing USA jammer Davila mid-fall after contact with Jenkill n Hyde of Wales.
Lady Trample by Marie Leander. Jammers can be bulls or ballerinas. Here, Marie catches Lady Trample of Aotearoa in a ballerina moment, completing a flying pirouette on the outside line that leaves Mexico’s defense out of position. The move is frozen so perfectly that you can even see the Aotearoa logo on one of Trample’s custom skates.
Boo LaLa by Steph Zakas. Roller Derby athletes have a far greater size distribution than in almost any other sport (only American Football comes close)—you can be much bigger or much smaller than average and still be a powerful competitor. Steph’s picture proves this point by showing one of the shortest athletes in the World Cup, Boo LaLa of Korea, who is just under 4'11" (149 centimeters) tall, clearing Ireland’s pack with jammer cover in hand after a successful star pass. Most of Korea’s athletes were under 5'2".
Akers by Tom Malko. At least one fan watches open mouthed as USA blocker Tracy Akers lands a hard hit on Australia jammer Sarah Chambers during the World Cup final. Tom’s picture captures the intensity of elite level roller derby, the power of its best blockers, and the courage of its greatest jammers: it’s an amazing block by Akers, and Chambers bounced right back up and kept on jamming. A cute detail: note that this mighty blow is landed by an athlete with the word “Cupcakes” tattooed on her thigh.
All images are © 2018, the property of the photographer, published here under license, and may not be reproduced in any form without permission of the photographer.