GB at the Beach - ECBU 2013
The European Championships of Beach Ultimate took place in Calafell, Spain in late June, with GB represented in all seven divisions. It was a mixed bag of results, given GB’s current high standards in the grass form of the game, with the only Gold medal brought home by the Open Masters Team. The Open, Mixed Masters and Women’s Masters teams all came in second best, with a token Bronze for the Grand Masters. GB Women just missed out in 4th place, but still managed to play a key role in most of the Finals. GB Mixed finished 7th in what was probably the most competitive Division.
GB Open Masters was a star-studded team, basically the old Catch 22 outfit that had so many close misses at Rimini over the years. A solid O-line revolved around Captain Si Hill, Stu Mitchell, Rick Shipley and Sion Thaysen throwing to Si Weeks, who finished top scorer in the Division with 24 goals. Si and the ever-green D-Machine, Rob McGowan, had been a key part of GB Mixed Masters’ Gold at the World Championships two years back, making them the only European double-gold-holders. With the likes of Daves Barnard, Grayson, Bixler and Moore (DJ) and consistent performances throughout the squad, this team showed themselves to be true Masters of the game and never looked in trouble, the 13-8 crushing of France in the Final being their closest match of the tournament. Could these guys have won the Open Division? Maybe, or perhaps 3rd place?!
GB Open can be proud of their Silver Medal after a very tough final against an impressive Swiss team. Jaimie Cross and Dave Ford had put together a strong mix of youth and experience, with Harry Geller and Paul Sarjeant the stand-out goal-scorers. Despite an early scare in losing to Latvia early on, GB Open stayed focused and improved throughout the tournament, with impressive QF and SF wins against Belgium and the strong Germany team. The Final began with a shaky start in the face of intense Swiss D, and despite a plucky come-back the Swiss held on to win 12-9.
GB Mixed Masters were close to emulating their glory at Worlds two years ago, but unfortunately lost the final against Germany 11-10 having been 10-7 ahead! Despite this choke, the team was delighted to win the Spirit of the Game Award, a fitting reward for Captain Lucy Byrne and the Bristol core with London reinforcements plus MVP Jon Aaron. Al Harding and Maria Cahill were also stand-out newcomers to the team, while Steve Balls had a great final, scoring at least 3 goals.
The Womens Masters and Grand Masters would probably have preferred to play in a division of more than 4 teams. But the ladies in particular had a series of tight battles and were ahead for most of the final against Germany (who else?!). The Grand Masters stayed cheerful til the end, beating Germany to 3rd place having been unable to challenge France and Austria. Jack Goolden became probably the most decorated GB player ever, and managed to find his flipflops.
Finally the Mixed team, who had started the tournament confidently dispatching most of their pool, lost out to a very strong and well-prepared Irish team in the quarter finals. This was followed by a close loss to France, but GB managed to win the last game v Poland to claim 7th place. Luke Tobiasiewicz and the Scarampis (Adriano and Fran) stood out on the scoreboards. This fairly young team is bound to come back stronger at the next opportunity.
All in all it was an amazing tournament, with GB teams providing great support to eachother, in particular on finals days when the gazoos rang out. Huge thanks should go out to the GB physios, who were the envy of many other teams and kept cheerful despite the growing (w)injury queues. Still some room for improvement for GB Beach, which sounds like a good reason to organize more UK-based beach tournies and start preparing for the World Championships in 2015. As Patrick Van Der Valk, the accomplished ECBU President would say, keep 'em flying.