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A retrospective on Japan


They lived together at the Universal Stu-

dios theme park, rode high-speed trains, argued over maps, and got lost together. They visited shrines, watched baseball, searched for fresh vegetables, bought the finest knives in the world and stumbled over Japanese customs. They also played Ultimate.

They competed in pursuit of one of the most anticipated, most fiercely sought- after Ultimate championships in the world – the third quadrennial World Ultimate and Guts Championships. They won the bronze.

Nine months prior, following the de- cades-long tradition, the reigning Cana- dian Ultimate champions (in this case, Furious George) appointed a national selection committee. In this office was entrusted the task of assembling the Open national team from talent across the country. The process itself -- long and suitably

arduous -- spanned months. Selectors and often repeated the mantra, “every time you’re playing Ultimate, you’re trying out,” adding spice and vigour to even pick-up games whenever a selector might appear. There was the round of applications, of course, and training sessions for candi- dates, and pre-tryout tournaments in such far-flung places as Hawaii and Nevada. At a grueling weekend of player evaluations in Vancouver, BC, hopefuls were drilled,

filmed, scrutinized, weighed and judged.

In April, when

the national roster was at last an- nounced, it was accompanied by these words: . . . you were not selected as a pat on the back. This is not the prize. This is now the single most demanding, most unforgiving club in the country, and you have been assigned to it officially. When you’re training, you’ll suf- fer; when you’re not, you’ll feel guilty for not suffering enough. And it was unforgiving. For months, ev-

ery drop, poor throw, bad choice – every lapse of every kind – was a reminder that we, Team Canada, needed to be better. There were challenges and frustrations in spades. There were bitter losses, like those early on, to Sockeye and Revolver. But all that time, we all carried a faith that these were just necessary hurdles, that a loss is just a learning step toward a win. We believed in our ability to triumph come the moment of truth. With every point and every game, we improved on ourselves. And that momentum carried into the

tournament itself, always climbing and growing against new challenges. Every game against a new country presented a new puzzle. In the world of Ultimate, you find such incredible diversity in the way the game is played, in tactics and throws, and even in use of the rules at sports- manship, that every match stood out memorably for its uniqueness. The moment of truth arrived in the

playoffs, with the first blast of the quar- ter-final horn. We took the field against Germany in the grey, gusting heat of a


tropical rainstorm. And we played our most beautiful game of the tournament. The elimination round -- those last three games as a team -- were, in my mind, our swan song. We at last achieved that clar- ity of purpose and fiery sense of urgency. The sky hurled wind, rain, and heat at us, and we weathered it unflinchingly. Even when we made mistakes, we overcame them and fought back. And the effort culminated in a universe-point semi-final cliffhanger against Team USA. We lost, at the end of a grinding, knife- edge point that was so nearly ours. Team USA went on to win the world champion- ship over Great Britain.

FROM OUR LOGS In the end, we gathered ourselves back up again, and played a stormy, rainy game of Ultimate for the bronze medal against Sweden. It was the sort of weather in which no one really wants to be playing offense. But we did it, and at least ac- complished that. It was not the result we wanted and it`s not a result we are proud of, but I know everyone is proud of the fight that we did muster. If you are un- lucky and you don`t have the victory, you still have the fight. No one can take that from you. Only the victors get gold medals when all is said and done. But a game you can reflect proudly remains a success in itself.

Ultimate Canada Magazine —


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