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Windy City Rollers Fri Nov 02 2012
Getting Midori Ohtake to talk about herself is no easy task.
Ask her a personal question and she responds with only short sentences. She speaks quietly, a slight smile always on her face, her hands barely moving.
Getting Midori Ohtake to talk about roller derby is easy. The slight smile expands into a full, toothy grin. Her eyes -- dark and framed by plastic-rimmed librarian glasses -- light up. Words flow almost effortlessly, a few even escaping her mouth as she chews a giant slice of pizza topped with black olives, garlic and roasted red peppers.
If the name Midori Ohtake doesn't sound familiar to you, you're not alone. She is better known as KonichiWOW, number 303 on the Windy City Rollers All-Stars. You may also know her as the jammer who was skating during the final jam of September's WFTDA North-Central region tournament and outscored her counterpart on the Minnesota RollerGirls 11-8 to win the tournament for the All-Stars.
Ohtake didn't expect to be wearing the star in that final jam (though she was quick to add that she trains so that she's available whenever she's called upon).
"I jammed that last jam against Minnesota because I had one minor [penalty]," she said with a laugh. "All our other jammers had three minors."
Four minor penalties equal a trip to the penalty box.
Ohtake doesn't remember much about that final jam.
"When I was skating, all I was thinking is, 'Don't go to the box,'" she said. "That last jam, it was like a movie."
It's not just derby that gets Ohtake fired up. Eventually, she said, she'd like to go to graduate school and work in public health, possibly running needle-exchange programs.
"I really like the concept of harm reduction because the war on drugs doesn't work," she said.
But try as you might, you can't keep Ohtake from talking derby, which has become a family affair for her. Her father, she said, is the coach of her former team in Buffalo, N.Y.
"It's awesome that he's still a part of derby even though I'm not living there," she said.
Ohtake's mother also gets into the derby action, even going so far as to eschew her normal bedtime to hear the results of a recent All-Stars bout against the Naptown Roller Girls of Indianapolis.
"She stayed up last night to wait for my phone call to tell her how we did," Ohtake said, bouncing slightly in her seat like an excited kid on Christmas morning. "She usually goes to bed really early."
Since the Naptown bout, much of Ohtake's attention has been on WFTDA Championships, which begin today in Atlanta. The All-Stars, though, don't play until Saturday afternoon because they won their region. They'll face the winner of the first round bout between the Denver Roller Dolls and Charm City Roller Girls.
Ohtake said that during the regular season, the All-Stars faced several of the teams in the tournament and she's excited to see how their play has evolved.
"Everybody's game is going to be different than it was at the beginning of the season," she said, her eyes again widening and her smile again growing huge. "It's going to be so exciting."
Photo by Gil Leora, courtesy of Windy City rollers