Japan wins by a whisker as Hong Kong hosts the Asia Oceanic Ultimate (Frisbee) Championships

Hong Kong was the centre of the Asian Ultimate sports community recently, playing host to the World Flying Disc Federation’s 2015 Asia Oceanic Ultimate Championships from Nov. 27 to 29, otherwise known as Clockenflap weekend. This three day tournament is held every four years to decide the best Ultimate team in Asia and Oceania.

Ultimate, a fast-paced game, demanding its players to develop razor sharp throwing skills and immense stamina and agility, is growing quickly in Asia. The game uses a 175 gram flying plastic disc (commonly referred to as a Frisbee – although this is a brand name and incorrectly attributed to the sport) and features rules similar to rugby and soccer. 

Opposing teams can have seven players on the field at one time. These players cannot move once they have caught the disc and instead try to pass it to a team mate. Each time the offensive team completes a pass in the defence’s end-zone, the offense scores a point. Got it?


The Hong Kong Mixed team on offense against Singapore. Photo: The Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association

This year’s tournament was the largest national level tournament ever held in Asia, featuring 450 players, on 22 teams, representing 11 countries and territories across the region.

The tournament was divided into three divisions, Open Division (which is open to players of any gender, though usually teams are all male), Women’s, and Mixed. Ultimate is unique amongst high level sports in having mixed gender teams competing at the top level. 

Another unusual aspect of Ultimate is that it does not rely on referees. Players instead act as their own refs, making calls and reaching decisions between themselves as to whether a foul or rule infraction occurred. Once an agreement is reached, play continues, otherwise the disc is returned for the last play to be repeated.


Singapore Women’s team passing the disc against Chinese Taipei in the finals. Photo: The Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association

Self-refereeing in Ultimate is in-line with its overarching philosophy of the Spirit of the Game, a notion that Ultimate holds in high esteem even at the highest levels. There is no room for cheating, time wasting and play acting: players must play honest and fair.

This year’s showpiece final was between the Open’s teams of Japan and Australia. Both are considered powerhouses in the region and the grand final matchup – played to 17 points – came down to the very last point with both teams tied at 16. Japan managed to score and claim their second AOUC title in four years.

In the other divisions, Chinese Taipei beat Singapore for the Women’s Championship, and the Philippines overcame favourites Australian to win the Mixed division.


The Hong Kong Open team advancing upfield against India. Photo: The Hong Kong Ultimate Players Association

Ultimate is, for now, an amateur sport in Asia. The players at AOUC 2015 made sacrifices, taking time off work and paying their own way to represent their countries for the love of the game. While there are semi-professional leagues beginning to emerge in the USA, equivalent levels of competition in Asia and Oceania are still a long way off.

The next major tournament for Ultimate is the World Championships in London next June. Hong Kong will be sending at least one team, the players of which will again dedicate free time to represent Hong Kong for the love of the game.  

Words: Conor Quigley and Will Munkara-Kerr
 


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