Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ultimate: This is as good as it gets

Disc-throwing sport fast, intense and a family affair

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Ultimate matriarch Vaughn Snider introduced the game to her daughter, Anya, and sons, Caleb (tossing Frisbee) and Quinn.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Ultimate matriarch Vaughn Snider introduced the game to her daughter, Anya, and sons, Caleb (tossing Frisbee) and Quinn. Photo Store

Caleb Snider stepped onto the "ultimate" pitch for his first game against a Japanese team that spoke little English, making communication somewhat complicated. Conflicts or disputes -- if they did arise -- were solved by re-doing the play and resuming the intense pace.

In this sport there are no referees, just the "spirit of the game," Snider said. It's what he loves most about the game.

Caleb and his older sister, Anya, represented Canada at the World Ultimate Championships in Lecco, Italy, earlier this month. They competed on teams in the under-20 age category that hammered and scoobered better than most countries at the tournament. Yes, those are Frisbee-throwing techniques.

The men won gold and the women earned silver, as both teams played the United States in the final.

'It was one of the most spirited games I've ever played in and everything was on the line'

However, they weren't alone. Five other ultimate players from Winnipeg competed on the men's team and two more on the women's.

"To be able to compete at the world level against other countries and to have that amount of honesty and spirit is just really something special," Caleb, 17, said.

"And I really noticed in the worlds final against the United States, it was one of the most spirited games I've ever played in, and everything was on the line. Going into that final, nobody knew what it was going to be like."

The games were played up to a points total of 17, with each team comprising seven players on a field close to the size of a football field. Teams use a variety of tactics and formations, while attempting different types of throws. Caleb said the game has evolved to the point there are countless different ways to throw the disc.

Each spinning disc caught in the opposing end zone is worth one point and after more than two hours of high-paced play, the men edged the United States 17-16, while the women lost 17-9 in their final.

The Sniders returned to Winnipeg, but stayed only a week before making a trip to Waterloo, Ont., for the Canadian Ultimate Championship. Caleb, along with younger brother Quinn, won silver for Manitoba and Anya helped the women's provincial team to bronze.

Ultimately, the participants in this sport -- especially in professional leagues -- don't make a lot of money. But it's growing fast, with more and more talk for it to be potentially included in the world's biggest sporting event, the Olympic Games.

"It's tough when you're really passionate about a sport and you're actually talented at a sport... you hope that you can take it somewhere with a career possibility," Caleb said.

"But ultimate is not there yet, but it's been really exciting seeing it progress. I heard the Olympic committee was analyzing this last world's tournament, seeing what it's like and seeing if it would ever be able to be a part of the Olympics."

The sport is growing across Canada and Manitoba appears to be one of the leaders. Just ask the mother of these three athletes, Vaughn Snider, who has been involved in Winnipeg's tight-knit ultimate community for about 16 years.

Snider is the coach of Westgate Mennonite Collegiate's ultimate team, which she started six years ago, and it's where her children play, or used to play.

When she started the program at Westgate there was only one division because of the small number of schools participating, but now there are several divisions, all co-ed.

"It's like any other sport I guess," she said. "These kids in high school, they play on their school teams and other kids say 'Hey, I can do that.' Westgate, it's a small school. We've got about four middle-school teams and they all know each other...

"I'm hoping they'll be inspired by what they've done and hopefully aspire to do it themselves in two years."

kyle.edwards@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2014 C8

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