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.

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