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Roller Derby Dame: When Push Comes to Shove

Martin waits patiently on the “penalty bench” before she can rejoin her team and finish the round, or “jam” at the Gainesville Fairgrounds on Feb. 7. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News

As a blocker for the Gainesville Roller Rebels All-Star roller derby team, Angela Martin, otherwise known as Angrilla RX8, travels across Florida competing in this rough-and-tumble sport.

Her derby number, RX8, symbolizes the sports car Martin dreams of owning. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News

Despite being a real life “roller derby dame,” Martin, 35, is also a Gulf War veteran, a retired senior interrogator for the U.S. Army and is getting her master’s degree in international relations online at the University of Troy. With a weekly 15-hour commitment to roller derby, Martin finds herself pushing, shoving, dodging and falling all in the name of the sport. She balances that life with more gentle interactions outside of roller derby, most notably with her beloved pets.

Martin is slow to wake up with her cat, T-Bone, and ailing dog, Hachiko, on a day she has been dreading. Her beloved Akita has advanced bone cancer and will be euthanized. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News

Martin has two orange-striped cats named Simba and T-Bone. She lost Hachiko, her eight-year-old Akita, due to advanced bone cancer on Jan. 30. Hachiko was a registered and certified emotional-support animal. He was Martin’s companian since 2010, when she took him in when she left the Army after her third deployment. On Feb. 11, Martin took in a 6-year-old Akita named Laveau to foster until a permanent home can be found.

Martin suppresses tears as Hachiko slips into a deep sleep before being euthanized in her home.
Martin suppresses tears as Hachiko slips into a deep sleep before being euthanized in her home. ” credit=”Destiny Johnson

Martin is not considered “rotten meat,” a term used to describe veteran skaters, but she is starting her third year in the sport. At this point, she is impervious to lingering glances when dressed in her fishnets and booty shorts. The revealing outfit is an unofficial uniform for derby girls.

Loading up on carbs before a scrimmage is essential for Martin. A burger from McDonalds is her selection before a scrimmage on Jan. 24. She says she has become immune to people staring at her in her derby outfit. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News







“I’m not a scandalous person,” Martin said, but she understands why derby girls wear the scandalous clothing. It is steeped in tradition handed down from the beginnings of derby, when housewives traded their aprons for quad skates and found an escape in the sport.

To intimidate the opposing team, Martin also chooses to paint her face before bouts.

Martin transforms from Angela into “Angrilla” as she puts on “war paint” before a scrimmage on Jan. 24. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News

“Intimidation is part of it,” Martin said, clad in her jersey with her alter ego “Angrilla” printed in bold lettering on the back. Angrilla was a name suggested to her by a colleague when she first began derby. It reminds her to keep her temper in check.

Martin carefully tapes her wrist before a scrimmage on Jan. 24 to avoid aggravating an old derby injury. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News

Martin’s number, RX8, came more easily. Martin hopes to own the Mazda sports car one day in red — her signature color. It reminds her to always keep her eye on the prize.

The roller derby season has just begun. The Gainesville Roller Rebels Swamp City Sirens will face Sarasota’s North River Rolling Renegades in regular play on March 21. The Gainesville Roller Rebels All-Star’s first game of the new season will be at home against the Chattanooga Roller Girls on April 18.

Martin blocks a “jammer” from getting through “the wall” and scoring points against her team during a scrimmage on Jan. 24 in Daytona. Destiny Johnson/WUFT News


About Destiny Johnson

Destiny is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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