Sexy Slaydie of Gotham Girls Talks Playing The Best Roller Derby Possible


Sarah McKemie, aka Sexy Slaydie of Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Stars Talks Playing The Best Roller Derby Possible and the spirit of competitiveness.

When talking to perhaps the best defensive player in women’s flat track roller derby, Sarah McKemie, aka Sexy Slaydie of the Gotham Girls Roller Derby All-Stars, the 6-foot-1 blocker reflects the views of the majority of her peers when it comes to her love of the sport.

“The goal has always been to play the absolute best derby possible,” she said. “We all love the spirit of competitiveness, but also respect for your fellow skaters and fellow league mates. It’s not win or die.”

“It’s not win or die.” That’s a statement that flies in the face of the usual sporting culture, but then again, in the interest of full disclosure, Slaydie did play the 2015 WFTDA (Women’s Flat Track Derby Association) championship game, as well as most of the semifinal, with a broken leg and a sprained ankle.

Image via Gotham Girls Roller Derby

She laughs when I point this little fact out to her, one that makes it clear that those who just lace up their skates for the “spirit of competitiveness” don’t play nearly two games with a broken limb.

“I still had a little bit left,” she said.

Slaydie is not alone in this willingness to leave it all on the track in search of victory. Derby skaters are among the toughest athletes on the planet, and the fact that they’re doing this without million dollar contracts adds to the level of respect these ladies should get. But the Kentucky native doesn’t go out of her way to talk about playing injured or look for a pat on the back. She just wants to play, and she knows only one way to do it.

“It’s much more helpful for me to go into a game with the mindset of if we give it everything we’ve got, then hopefully that is enough to put us over the top,” Slaydie said. “If we give every bit of ourselves and lay it all on the track, that’s all you can do, and if that’s what you’re focused on doing, then it relieves the stress. If you give it every single thing you have and it isn’t enough, then the other team is better and they win. And when I say give it your all, I mean every single thing you’ve got.”

Part of a Gotham squad that has been the gold standard for flat track derby, Slaydie and company entered the 2015 tournament with a record five WFTDA titles, four of them coming in succession. In the semifinals, Slaydie broke her tibia and sprained her ankle on the first jam of the bout. She played on and Gotham eked out a 143-141 win over Melbourne’s Victorian Roller Derby League All-Stars.

Before the final against Portland’s Rose City squad, Slaydie consulted with the medics on site in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but when I asked if she was worried about injuring herself further, she chuckled.

“It wasn’t the impression that I had and it wasn’t really what I felt in my gut either. I didn’t think that I was going to injure myself further. I was taped really well, I was limber, and I did everything I could. The only reason I wouldn’t have played would have been if I thought that my team’s performance as a whole would have suffered.”

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She went on to give a typical Slaydie performance, but on this night, it was Rose City’s time to shine, and they upset the Gotham squad 206-195. The loss snapped a 67-game win streak, with the New Yorkers’ last loss coming in November of 2010. That’s a five-year string of excellence, and their defeat shocked the derby world. But the players, while disappointed with the end result, didn’t exactly sit in a dark room dressed in black for subsequent team meetings.

“There were a lot of hugs, actually,” Slaydie laughs. But in all seriousness, the defeat did signal that as good as Gotham has been, the rest of the derby world is getting pretty damn good as well, which is a good sign for the still evolving sport.

“We played our hearts out, but other teams are getting really good and they’re figuring out how to combat and defend against some of our strategies and play offense against us and we respect that, so we’re going to step our game up because other teams have stepped their game up, and that’s the great part about sports.”

Today in Portland, the 2016 WFTDA championship tournament begins, with Gotham kicking off their quest to regain the title on Saturday afternoon against the winner of the Angel City vs. Montreal bout. So far this season, it’s been back to business as usual for New York’s finest, who have compiled an 8-0 record with an average win differential of 250 points. Yes, 250 points. The games will undoubtedly get closer as the stakes get higher, but that’s just what Slaydie and her teammates expect and want. It’s cool winning by 400 points, but when you win a back and forth battle that goes down to the wire and pushes you to the limit, that’s so much more satisfying.

“Our team has spent this entire season preparing and doing every single thing we can do, and that (high level competition) is what we want. We’re excited to play on a high level, and this year, we’re building on the momentum and success we had last year, we added a couple people to our team, and we’re working really hard on tightening everything up and taking the success we’ve had this year into Champs.”

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And no matter what happens, when it’s time to take the track, Sexy Slaydie will be there waiting to hit somebody.

“I cannot wait to play Champs at full strength with two non-broken legs,” she said. “I’m so excited.”