New roller derby sport kicks off in Singapore

THEY have no-nonsense monikers like Thrasherina Jolie and Riot Mamba and gather in groups of up to 20 twice a week.

Meet the Chilli Padi Derby Grrrls (CPDG) - Singapore's first women's flat-track roller-derby league.

Roller derby is a contact sport that has teams skating pack-style while attempting to block the opposing team's "jammer", or the only player who can score points. Competitions are referred to as bouts.

It has been popular in countries such as Australia and the United States for decades - the sport even inspired the Drew Barrymore 2009 film, Whip It.

Similar sports have been growing in popularity here. Last month's SEA Games hosted its inaugural rollersports competition - the Singapore team took home a total of nine medals for various speed-skating events.

There are no official figures but Rollersports Singapore - formerly the Inline Sports and Skating Association of Singapore - estimates that there are over 30,000 skaters in Singapore, according to its website.

As for the CPDG, co-president Taferine Huang started the team in September last year as she felt Singapore women should experience the "amazing sport". Ms Huang, 27, had then just returned from a stint in Australia, where she picked up the sport in March last year.

"I searched for a league here but found none," she told my paper. "So it occurred to me that I should start one... It is very liberating."

Since then, the team has grown to about 30 regular members, recruited via its Facebook page or by word of mouth, said Ms Huang, who goes by the derby name Riot Mamba.

By day, she works at the Singapore Zoo's upcoming River Safari attraction.

Men are welcome to train to become referees, but will not be able to compete in bouts. There are two male members.

The team is currently undergoing an intensive 20-week training programme, with two-hour sessions held twice a week at *Scape in Orchard Link.

Training - which includes cardiovascular exercises and game-play drills - is done by two Singapore-based former members of international derby leagues. Only those aged 18 and above are allowed to compete when bouting starts early next year.

The United World College of South East Asia has a roller-derby league that is open only to students.

Next year, CPDG will apply to be affiliated with the US-based Women's Flat Track Derby Association, which sets the standards for the sport. If accepted, it will be allowed to compete internationally.