Saturday, April 24, 2010

Bangalore readying for the ‘Ultimate’ challenge

Article appearing in

A new sport, played with a flying disc, is slowly beginning to attract a committed group of players in India

Preparations are on for Bangalore's first national Ultimate Frisbee tournament.
Once considered a counter-cultural sport, Ultimate, which began in Columbia High School in the Sixties, has gained enough popularity and spread in India to warrant a circuit of its own. Following a national tournament at Kodaikanal International School in March, Bangalore's Ultimate community has offered to host the next one, in late June or early July. The event - which is likely to see at least ten teams from across the country, and maybe a couple from Singapore and Sri Lanka - will be held at a specially-developed field at an adventure camp off some 30km from Bangalore, off Tumkur Road.

Ultimate began as 'Ultimate Frisbee', a team sport with elements of rugby and basketball, and played with a flying disc; players are reluctant to use the term 'Frisbee' because it's a brand name. The sport was associated with the counterculture in its formative years at Columbia High School in the late Sixties and Seventies. "It was fun for us," pioneer Joel Silver told an interviewer, "We thought we were all so hip and so smart and so with it, that we used the Frisbee as kind of a symbol of running against everything else." Ultimate has since grown into a world sport, with European and world championships, although in India it is barely three years old as a competitive sport.

Its pioneer in India was Bryan Plymale, a teacher at Kodaikanal International School (KIS). Bryan picked up the sport in his native US and is even credited with introducing the game in Brazil, Puerto Rico and Singapore, where the sport has become wildly popular. He brought Ultimate to India in 1998, and within the year had organised a tournament with five teams (including four from KIS).
"It was pretty slow in the beginning," Bryan told DNA. "Back in 1998-99, we had this programme where Ultimate players from the US sent used Frisbees and we took them to the villages to organise some kind of social interaction. I go back sometimes and the kids do remember. Some of them are quite good." Bryan has been playing Ultimate for 34 years, and is considered a brilliant 'handler' with a variety of tricks up his sleeve. Although the game has yet to become popular, it has a committed teams across the country, and the Bangalore event may well see the largest number of participating teams.

The Ultimate community in Bangalore essentially consists of two teams, Disc-O-Deewane (DoD) and Learning to Fly. Most of DoD's members are adventure professionals who took to the sport after rock climbing sessions at Turhalli on the city's outskirts; but that early version had handball's rules. Online research established that the sport in fact has some unique rules - the players themselves call the fouls, and each team of seven compulsorily has to have at least one girl.

Nowadays, both groups train together at GKVK, Hebbal, on Saturdays, and National College grounds on Mondays. To popularise the Bangalore tournament, and the sport, they are planning to stage an exhibition game in the city, either before or after the tournament.

Dev S Sukumar. Bangalore