Ki­wis to com­pete in world champs

Central Leader - - SPORT - By JESS LEE

When Riah Milden­hall isn’t stuck in the li­brary with her head buried in med­i­cal books she can be found chas­ing a fris­bee.

But it’s more than just a hobby for the 20-year-old med­i­cal stu­dent.

Milden­hall is gear­ing up to com­pete at the World Un­der-23 Ul­ti­mate Cham­pi­onships with the New Zealand team.

It is the first time a New Zealand ul­ti­mate women’s age-group side has been able to com­pete on the world stage.

Ul­ti­mate is a free-spir­ited sport com­bin­ing the ele­ments of net­ball, football, touch rugby and Amer­i­can football.

Teams of seven com­pete against each other on a rec­tan­gu­lar ground to score points by pass­ing discs up the field to team­mates stand­ing in de­fen­sive end zones.

Games can last up to 110 min­utes with play­ers of­ten sprint­ing non­stop.

Milden­hall says ul­ti­mate is unique in its lack of ref­er­ees at ev­ery level of the com­pe­ti­tion, leav­ing play­ers on the field to make their own calls when fouls are made.

‘‘Fris­bee at­tracts a cer­tain type of per­son be­cause its self-ref­er­eed so you kind of have to be a cer­tain per­son or it doesn’t re­ally work. There’s such a fun at­mos­phere.’’

The game was de­vel­oped in the 1960s and is now played in more than 80 coun­tries by an es­ti­mated seven mil­lion peo­ple.

The Mt Eden ath­lete plays for Auck­land’s Vixenz Ul­ti­mate and was on the un­der-19 national team for two years.

Milden­hall trains as much as she can to en­sure she can keep up with the fierce com­pe­ti­tion the team will face at the in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment.

The In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee granted pro­vi­sional recog­ni­tion to the World Fly­ing Disk Fed­er­a­tion on May 31 – a nec­es­sary step to have the sport con­sid­ered for the Olympics.

The World Un­der-23 tour­na­ment will be held in Canada from July 22 to 28 and the team will play a se­ries of games against more than 20 coun­tries.

As a New Zealand un­der-23 women’s side is yet to com­pete at a cham­pi­onship tour­na­ment there is lit­tle for the team to use as a bench­mark, Milden­hall says.

‘‘We don’t get to train to­gether as a team very of­ten be­cause we’re based all over the coun­try but when we do get to­gether we make huge im­prove­ments ev­ery time.

‘‘I’m ex­cited to see how far we can go be­cause based on how we’ve gone so far the im­prove­ments should be mas­sive.’’

Auck­land Ul­ti­mate pres­i­dent Sherif Ibrahim says the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s aim to grow the sport seems to be work­ing. The num­ber of peo­ple play­ing ul­ti­mate has dou­bled in New Zealand in the past decade and about 500 peo­ple are now in­volved, he says.

‘‘It’s ex­tremely ex­cit­ing. The im­prove­ment and skill level of the young play­ers has been im­pres­sive.’’

Mr Ibrahim says the national teams will go into the com­pe­ti­tion con­sid­er­ing ev­ery game ‘‘winnable’’.

‘‘That’s the right at­ti­tude for us. The game is just so ap­peal­ing be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent, re­ally ath­letic and it has such a strong men­tal­ity of sports­man­ship.

‘‘It’s not hard to see why more peo­ple are start­ing to play.’’

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Ul­ti­mate sport: Mt Eden stu­dent Riah Milden­hall is pre­par­ing to take on the world’s best at the World Un­der-23 Ul­ti­mate Fris­bee Cham­pi­onships.

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