A Greater Victoria teen has achieved a sporting dream just five years after she strapped on a pair of roller skates for the first time.
Naomi Morrell, 16, has been named to team Canada for the Junior Roller Derby World Cup, and is set to head to Valance, France for the competition in July.
“I was checking my email for a message my friend told me about, but there was nothing there, so I thought I didn’t make it. Then I checked my junk mail and there it was,” said Morrell of how she found out she had been selected.
“The first few lines were thanking me for participating, so I thought I didn’t make it, but I kept reading and it said, ‘It is our pleasure to welcome you to the team,’ and I couldn’t read past that for 20 minutes because I just started yelling.”
Morrell said she and the friend had travelled to Alberta for the team tryouts, and she left feeling confident in her performance there, but even that wasn’t enough to temper her reaction to the news. She said that ever since she first dipped her toes into the sport at age 11, she has dreamed of making the national team as it is the highest one can reach in a sport with next-to-no professional leagues.
It also allowed her to follow through on an earlier promise to herself to tryout for the team when she was 13, but ended up being cancelled as the pandemic brought all sporting events to a sudden halt.
“I read about derby in a comic book and really wanted to try it out, so I asked my mom if there were any teams here in Greater Victoria, and there were, so she took me to a practice,” said Morrell. “I went and there were these terrifying women just demolishing each other, and I just knew I had to join. I was in the rink the next week.”
Morrell, who plays for Victoria’s Rotten Apples under the name Scream Soda, said roller derby was an easy sport for her to fall in love with, given its special position as a sport which has always been built up and run for and by women and the queer community. Compared to soccer and the other sports she had played before, derby felt like it was owned by women, rather than borrowed from men.
Now that she has been named to the junior national team, along with two other B.C. athletes, Morrell hopes to use this new claim to fame to help grow the sport in her community. Since news broke she had made the team, many people in her life have already started asking about derby more enthusiastically.
But for now, she is focusing on being ready for the world cup. She has already started her personal training and come April, will head to Toronto for the first official team practice and for a friendly tournament against teams from the U.S. and France, which are expected to be the teams to beat in the world cup.
Morrell has started a crowd funding campaign to help cover the costs of the trip and competition. Those interested in supporting her can contribute online.