Inaugural World U23 Championships successful despite setbacks

The first World Under-23 Championships were held in Florence in 2010. Great Britain entered teams in all three divisions, Open, Women's and Mixed. The results were excellent, with the Mixed team winning a Gold medal and the Women managing a very commendable third.


Why the need for under-23?

U23 Open play JapanU23 Open play JapanKevin Givens, the Executive Director of the World Flying Disc Federation, explained that the idea for an under-23 championship was not a new one.


'WFDF felt that there was enough interest to warrant the creation of the World Under 23 Ultimate Championships. The idea has been in place for a while in some way or form. It serves as a gap between the Junior’s Division and the Open/Women’s Division so there is a reason for its inclusion,' he said.

Simon Hill, CEO of the UK Ultimate Association, added that the plans are already in place to run the tournament again.

'WFDF is having a vote among the federations at the moment to see whether the tournament should be run every two or every four years. Most of the countries are pretty happy that it's a good idea, so it'll definitely happen again. I suspect we'll do it every other year because every four years would limit the development opportunities.'


The GB selection process

The tournament was announced relatively late, leaving only a couple of months for the team to be put together. That led to some challenges with the trials and the way the teams were prepared for the tournament. Players interested in playing had to send applications to the coaches in order to be invited to the trials.

'We already knew some of the players who would have been applying, so we were taking three main things into account when we were picking the teams,' explained Head Coach Barry O'Kane. 'They were personal knowledge of players, the actual trials themselves and recommendations from more experienced players in their clubs.'

Not everyone who applied was asked to attend trials, though.

'We told some players not to attend trials, because we were confident that we knew them well enough and could already gauge their abilities. Players that were in the middle bracket we were unsure of or that we didn't know well enough we told to attend,' Barry went on.

All of the squads played a show game at a Tour event prior to going to Florence. Mixed played against Jeremy Codhand at Mixed Tour 3, the Women played YAKA at Tour 1 and the Open side played Fire at Tour 2. However, the teams were not really able to plan many training sessions together.

Liam Kelly, an Open team player, described the selections as 'rushed'. John Maddox, one of the players on the Mixed team, commented on the selections:

'I think the selection process was run well in the light of such short time. I feel some people were fortunate to be picked, as with more time others who did not make the team may have had longer to impress, but in the time they had it was a good process.'


The tournament and results

At the tournament itself, results were mixed. The Mixed team won the title, defeating Belgium in the final after losing to them in the first game of the tournament. The women's team won bronze, managing an upset of Canada in the bronze medal game. The Open team were defeated in their quarter-final by Colombia in another upset and eventually finished in 6th.

GB and Italy mixedGB and Italy mixed

Simon saw the results as a positive:

'The girls getting bronze was an absolutely fantastic result. The Open team would have been disappointed after their performance against Colombia, but they played well and sometimes international quarter-finals are like that,' he said.

Barry was more forthright:

'Mixed was a great result, but our expectations were that they would win. They played brilliantly. The women outperformed our expectations, winning their 3/4 game. Open was hard to set expectations for, but they'll be disappointed with themselves I think. They didn't react well to what Colombia threw at them, and they'll feel they could have done better.'

Liam agreed with the assessment:

'Our aim was the final and we fell short of this. Despite beating Germany - who won bronze - more than comfortably in the pools, the open team didn't mange to progress passed the quarters. Colombia played the game of their lives to beat us comfortably. They were fired up after being embarrassed by Australia the previous day. But, at the end of the day, that is why we went to worlds. To be in situations where, given half a chance, any team could take their opponent all the way,' he said.

The organisation of the tournament, considering the time constraints, was impressive. There were a few issues though, such as the expense of flights to Florence and the reaction of the organisers to the weather.

'The tournament was run pretty well, though it was very hot. That raised a few issues, as the ground was very hard and there wasn't really adequate shade or anything,' Barry pointed out.

Liam agreed with that, going further by saying that:

'In comparison to other international tournaments, it was disappointing and expensive in terms of value for money. The fields were not ideal and the tournament lacked extras such as much needed shade,' he added.

John observed that the pitches were not at the standard they could have been.

'The venue was good, though pitches could have been a bit better. One pitch was amazing as it was constantly watered, it was a shame the others weren't,' he said.

In the end though, the championships were a positive experience for UK Ultimate.

'We weren't able to plan their training or anything really because it was announced so late,' confirmed Simon. 'It created quite a lot of challenges and pulling everything off in less than a year was less than ideal. Still, it was great for the players that went and despite the fact that we didn't do everything we wanted to do and I think it ended up pretty well.'


Photos courtesy of Luke Ryan.