Joy Thomen is the MWR Aquatic Director on Yokosuka Naval Base. She also recently competed as a member of Team Japan at the 2018 Roller Derby World Cup in England.
Along with four other military-affiliated players, three from Yokosuka and two from Okinawa, the squad teamed up in bouts against Poland, Czech, Switzerland and Finland.
Team Japan competed in the World Cup for the first time in 2014 and came away winless. This time, however, Thomen’s team had three good bouts and was able to come away with a victory against the Czech Republic. The United States beat Australia in the final to claim the championship.
Flat-track roller derby is a fast paced, contact team sport. The two teams consist of a dozen or more players and a bout is divided into two 30-minute periods. With five skaters per team on the track at a time, they skate counter-clockwise around a track trying to score points via the “jammer” passing opposing players.
When she’s not competing in world tournaments, Thomen is a member of the “Yokosuka Sushi Rollers,” a member of the Tokyo Roller Girls League. The five-team league consists of Yokosuka, Neon Roller Monsters, T3, Zama Killer Katanas and the Yokota Scary Blossoms.
After returning from the World Cup, Thomen recently sat down with Stars and Stripes to talk roller derby.
Q: You recently competed in the Roller Derby World Cup, how did that come about and what was the experience like?
A: To play for the country in the World Cup there are certain conditions that have to be met. So, for Team Japan, you can have Japanese heritage or have lived in the country for five years prior to the tournament. I have met the 5-year qualification. Of the five of us that are military affiliated, two others met the same criteria as me and the other two have Japanese heritage. It was an awesome experience, especially since I have only been playing the sport for three years. To play against teams we wouldn't otherwise get to play and to be able to see top players live was amazing.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in roller derby?
A: I am the Aquatics Director in Yokosuka and have been in Yokosuka for the past six years. I had been riding horses and the horse I was riding passed away, so I was looking for something new to do and a fun way to exercise. I saw the posters in the gym and thought why not give it a try. Prior to going to my first practice, I had not been on roller skates since I was a child.
Q: How can others in the military community find out more about playing while stationed in Japan?
To learn more, just email the team at email@example.com
or go to the Yokosuka Sushi Rollers page on Facebook. In Okinawa, they can contact Okinawa Roller Derby or Devil Dog Derby Dames on Facebook. We teach a “learn to skate program” so people can be safe on skates before we teach the technical skills of the sport. We also have loaner gear so people can try things out before committing.
Q: How can fans attend a bout and when is your next one?
A: All of our bouts are free and family friendly. Our next bout will be at the Bubble Gym in Ikego at 6 p.m. on Sat., March 3 and 9:30 a.m. on March 4. We will also have some fun bouts starting at noon on March 4 in Ikego, as well.
Q: How would you sell roller derby to those who don't know much about it but are thinking about coming out to watch?
A: The sport is very different than what many of us remember watching when we were younger. It is more athletic. It is a very welcoming community and our team is made up of people of all shapes and sizes and from a variety of backgrounds - both athletic and non-athletic. We have skaters, referees and non-skating officials.
All Star team to compete against Okinawa squads
The Tokyo Roller Girls League All-Star team will be playing on March 3 and 4 at the Bubble Gym in Ikego against the Okinawa teams.