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BY PAUL DANZER/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/Drink sponsorship allows Loren Mutch to focus on skating

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Loren Mutch (left) skates around Ruth Robertson during a Rose City Rollers Wheels of Justice team practice at Oaks Amusement Park.Loren Mutch's speed and agility make her one of the most feared jammers in the Women's Flat Track Derby Association and a key player for the Rose City Rollers' Wheels of Justice team that soon will skate for a third consecutive world championship.

But what makes Mutch especially unique in roller derby circles is her sponsorship deal with Red Bull.

"I get to be a full-time athlete," the 23-year-old says.

"(Red Bull) sponsors athletes from all kinds of sports. It was a good fit."

Most of her teammates have jobs to focus on before heading to The Hangar at Oaks Amusement Park four evenings a week to practice.

"My job is to play well, to skate well," Mutch says.

She recently attended an event for Red Bull athletes in Austin, Texas, and has appeared in several videos to discuss her sport and training regimen.

In her fourth year with the Rose City Rollers traveling team, Wheels of Justice, Mutch has been named MVP at several major tournaments, including the 2014 world championships, where her Portland team finished second to the Gotham Girls of New York City.

The past two years, Mutch helped the Portland team defeat its New York rival for the championship.

She also was selected to the U.S. national team for the first time, joining five Portland players on the team that will compete this winter in the World Cup tournament at Manchester, England.

Mutch has earned her place, according to Wheels of Justice captain Elicia Nisbet-Smith.

"She's been an incredible skater for a long time," says Nisbet-Smith, who has played for the national team of New Zealand. "She's a skater who is constantly working to improve herself, constantly pushing herself to get better."

Claire Chin (her roller derby name is Brute) is more typical of roller derby athletes. She recently returned to the sport after taking more than a year off to focus on finishing her degree in public health from Portland State. Now she is looking to start a career even as she prepares for the championship tournament.

A former member of speech and debate teams at Cleveland High, Chin says roller derby was her first exposure to competitive sports.

"That was my first taste that I might be a little bit spicier than the other folks on my debate team," Chin says.

She loves that her competitive nature fits in with the other skaters, women from many backgrounds who thrive in a full-contact sport that rewards those who train hard to improve.

Jes Rivas, a veteran blocker, says roller derby has rewarded her beyond the championships and her national team selections.

"I think my teammates are an incredible and diverse group of inspiring people. The constant innovation that we do. The challenging ourselves. The value we bring to each other. All of that is very meaningful to me," Rivas says about the women who join her at The Hangar at Oaks Park. "And we all have very, very different lives outside of roller derby. I'm confident I wouldn't know nearly anybody in this venue had it not been for this sport. I cherish that."

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