5 October 2009

A first look at ultimate in Colombia

Last weekend I attended the Regional Championships for Bogotá. The top bracket of teams played their games at the venue I was at.

There was parity among the men's teams unlike anything I have seen – the four games were each decided by one or two points, and no team dominated at any stage. The sponge effect (one team sucks up the strong players in its area) usually makes having multiple, even teams from one place very difficult – look at the US (especially the flux in the Philly to NY region) and Australia. But Bogotá has avoided this, which creates a great competitive environment to develop elite ultimate.

Colombian ultimate has a number of the features that are common hallmarks of well-organised, competitive ultimate: tape for sidelines, lush green fields, many coaches and stat-takers, and O and D lines. There were quirks though, such as sideline players regularly wandering up to 5 metres(!) onto the field during play, teams with only one water bottle between 20 players, and many teams with a hodge-podge of shirts and shorts instead of full matching uniforms.

In terms of style, the stand-out feature was a strong habit of poaching off dumps to defend the forward throwing lanes. Dumps could jog behind the disc to get a reset pass without breaking a sweat, and regularly did so.

And in line with wandering onto the field not being an issue, things that would elsewhere be called as travel and offside were ignored here.

Hucks were limited, most likely because of the consistent breezes. I want to see Colombian ultimate in still conditions.

The stereotype of short, layout machines applied to a good number of players, but they weren't necessarily speedier than Australian ultimate players, which was another stereotype I wanted to check out.

Nationals starts this Saturday, the first time Colombia has had an official National Championships, and is sure to be fun.

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