’Bout time for a Cupcake

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It took three tries, but the skater known as Half-baked Cupcake will finally roll into the spotlight this weekend. One of the newest members of the Cape Fear Roller Girls, Cupcake will get her first-ever taste of competitive roller derby action on Saturday when the Roller Girls host a home bout against the Lowcountry Highrollers of Charleston, South Carolina.

She’s excited. She’s nervous.

“I’ve got all of the feelings,” she said.

Most of all, she’s ready.

Cupcake, more commonly known as Courtney Tinkler, just made it through a 12-week new-recruit program designed to train and prepare the women competitors of a sport that showcases speed, collisions and falls, all while on roller skates. It’s truly defined as rough-and-tumble.

“It taught us how to fall,” she said of the program. “I fall so much. It’s just a matter of getting back up.”

Falling is a hallmark of roller derby, a sport where two teams of five roller skaters attempt to score points by passing each other. It is a throwback sport that started in the 1930s and eventually morphed into a televised event in the 1950s that featured scripted storylines and antics similar to televised wrestling.

The sport gained a revival in the 2000s as primarily a women’s sport, with teams popping up in more than 350 cities across the world, including in Wilmington, where the Roller Girls got their start 11 years ago.

While the scripts are gone, there are many storylines for this team of competitive women, where the participants will adopt edgy monikers like Bella da Brawl, Punky Bruise-her, and Full Metal Jackie.

Cupcake was drawn to roller derby as a way to connect with her three children, who also roller skate. When she started, she didn’t know how to skate well, but now, she said, “I’m getting pretty good at it.”

She first tried out for the Cape Fear Roller Girls in January 2015 and again last summer, falling short, but also falling in love with the unique sport that unites women from a range of backgrounds and experiences through competition, camaraderie and bruises.

“They ground me up,” Cupcake said. “But I met some awesome women. I get inspired by them.”

The Roller Girls have moved up in rankings in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association to No. 112. The ranking is built on serious competition, including travel to derbies in locations like Charlotte, North Carolina; Memphis, Tennessee; and Salisbury, Maryland. In May, the Roller Girls will travel to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the Gold Coast Beach Brawl.

“Derby is definitely a commitment,” said Kat Davis, better known as Kat Von D-Linquent. “The travel can be a lot but we all do it because we love the sport.”

On May 7 at Cape Fear Community College’s Schwartz Center, fans will have an opportunity to see two bouts, as the Roller Girls’ “B Team,” the Black Harrts, will face the Ring City Rollergirls of Kinston, North Carolina.

The Cape Fear Roller Girls make up a smaller team than the average roller derby squad, players said, relying more on speed to allow the crew’s four blockers to push and shove to make room for the jammer, the one skater who scores points in the fast-paced game.

The women of roller derby commit to the sport through pain and injury because of the opportunity for competition and athleticism it offers, explained Mayhem West, otherwise known as paralegal Kelly Klimczyk. She recently suffered a sprained ligament, which she is resting in preparation for this weekend’s bout.

“I juked funny and then my knee popped,” said West, who also competes with the statewide Carolina Rollergirls, based out of Raleigh. “After college, I was looking for a competitive sport to play and to meet people. There are so many types of people who come out, from bartenders to nurses to postal workers to chicken raisers.”

Others take to the sport as a form of therapy.

“I like the aggression,” said Hawaiian Puncher, one of the tallest of the 25-member squad. “It’s a hard sport, you have to love it.”

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