Discussing the excitement that was Beach World’s
Last week in Royan, France, the world’s ultimate playing nations got together to see who was the best on beach.
Unsurprisingly, the USA did pretty well, but they were not the unbeatable force we witnessed at WUGC in London last summer. So what does this mean for the state of international ultimate? In particular what can we expect from ultimate’s next big taste of Olympic limelight at next year’s World Beach Games?
The Chink In The USA’s Armour
If you only watch one game from the whole tournament, it needs to be the women’s final. If you haven’t seen it, watch it now and then come and read the rest of this article.
The final between USA and Russia at the previous Beach World’s in Dubai 2015 was considered by many to be the greatest game ever played on beach. This year’s final is also up there as one of the greatest games ever played on beach.
This is not, however, because of the quality of the play (which was a little questionable at times, although made up for by some ridiculous displays of athleticism) but because of the grit and determination Russia showed to pull back from what should have been an insurmountable deficit.
It was particularly pleasing to see Russia recover from the mental hit they clearly took after the dropped pull call (which I am pretty sure is against rule 1.10 but I guess that is a discussion for another time) and come back to made some truly unbelievable layout Ds and ultimately secure the game in what was probably the single most exciting moment of ultimate I have ever watched.
The USA Mixed team also managed to throw away an 8–2 lead over the Philippines to lose 8–9 which did attract some criticism, but the USA still went on to win gold in the mixed division.
GB had an extremely respectable showing. Every single GB team finished in the top 8 with the men (and grandmaster men) winning silver and women winning bronze.
The men’s and women’s teams should have no shame in losing to the USA and Russia in the final and semi final respectively, both opponents were extremely strong. I think if the GB women had played as well as they did against France in their quarter final they could have given either of the USA or Russia a really close game, but their performance against France was probably the best they’d ever played and to repeat that against such a strong Russian side would have been exceptional.
The GB men had a mammoth task in the final against the USA. Every single player on that USA team could have been put on any other team in the tournament and would have been the best player (or in the top 2–3 at least), so GB would have needed the performance of their lives — and maybe for USA to have a bad day — to take the gold medal. But to come back from a few unexpected losses early in the tournament to take silver is still a great achievement.
Looking Towards The World Beach Games
As far as the streaming of WCBU was concerned the three field coverage was excellent. The arena field games (which are on YouTube) were particularly excellent with three camera angles and generally the best commentary. The other two fields were a lower budget affair, but that was made up for by the fact that several of the best games of the tournament were streamed on pitch 2.
The coverage really showcased how good the beach format really is. In fact, the restricted roster sizes (which was an organisational error by the tournament directors who originally thought that the venue could handle a larger number of players) arguably made tournament better as even the smaller ultimate playing nationals could enter a team of 15 strong players in at least one division (and it also limited the depth that stronger nations could bring). This lead to more upsets than we expected and an overall more exciting tournament. Maybe a capped roster size of 15 should be introduced as a rule for future tournaments?
This is all very positive in the run up to the first ever World Beach Games next year, and I think we can be hopeful that ultimate’s inclusion in the games will really help to get us closer to true Olympic inclusion in the, hopefully, not too distant future.