•• All photographs by Jena Cumbo ••
It was halftime at LeFrak Center at Lakeside, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn—Gotham Roller Derby’s first bout since the pandemic, and Suzy Hotrod’s first since turning the big 4-0. And she was feeling it.
“We had a really long halftime at the game, and it also included a ‘thank you’ awards thing,” Suzy told the Voice shortly after that June 4 game, which featured an “All-Boro Mash-Up” as opposed to the usual clash between two of the league’s four home teams. “And my back started to lock up because it was getting cold on the bench, and I had to lather myself up with Tiger Balm. I’m thinking, ‘Come on now, you can do this,’ and all my teammates were like, ‘What is that cinnamon smell?’ It’s the Tiger Balm that’s holding my back together right now.”
Suzy, real name Jean Schwarzwalder, gutted her way through the second half of that 60-minute bout. She also guided her home team, the Queens of Pain, to victory in two home-team games in the three-game season, putting the squad in the driver’s seat for a fifth Golden Skate championship, in October. It’s almost like the world wasn’t shut down for two-plus years.
Or is it?
“It’s hard feeling old,” Suzy, now 41, says, laughing. “I turned 40 over the pandemic. I still play well, but mentally, I remember I’m 41….