Athletes train for ultimate challenge
Figures of all shapes and sizes charge up and down the damp Martinborough Rugby Club fields.
Black and white t-shirts oddly paired with bright, patterned shorts cover their bodies.
Powerful strides broken by sudden halts, their hands sandwich the disc and what follows is a graceful, flick-of-the-wrist release. Eyes are fixed on the circular piece of plastic which glides from one hand to the next.
This is not what comes to mind when we hear the word frisbee.
Instead of spending a relaxed afternoon flinging a disc around at the park the New Zealand Under 24 Ultimate team is training for the World Club Championships.
Wellington-based coach Nick Pannu tells me about his transition to the sport 12 years ago.
From ‘‘classic high-level football’’ where the opposition rejoice in your failures, to Ultimate. ‘‘ It’s a completely different experience,’’ he says.
He unconsciously clicks the pen in his hand as he delves into his Ultimate experiences.
‘‘I once scored a point from a long pass, and the guy who was marking me came up and gave me a high five and said nice play. It’s that kind of environment’’.
This is not to say Ultimate players are wimps. I watch as bodies are flung around the pitch, desperate to have the disc in hand.
Recent convert Zeana Mansell says she stumbled across the sport in high school.
She says skill and knowledge are insignificant when you step onto the pitch. Instead it is about developing the Ultimate community.
Teammate Keegan Miskimmin, 22, towers beside her. Despite the contrast in appearance, their attitudes are similar when discussing Ultimate.
‘‘Most people have never heard of the sport let alone have any idea of how to play it,’’ Miskimmin said.
His flatmates gave him stick for playing until they tried it.
The future of Ultimate looks promising. Participation is increasing and teams are training hard for the World Club Championships.
From left: coach Nick Pannu, Zeana Mansell and Keegan Miskimmin.