The United States is a powerhouse in ultimate Frisbee. That’s hardly surprising given that the sport was developed in America in 1968 and
hippies athletes have been tossing the disc around the country ever since.
But this past week’s performance at the World Ultimate Championships in London was dominant even by U.S. standards. For the first time since 1994, the United States swept the open, women’s and mixed division championships: The mixed team defeated Australia, 15-6; the women defeated Colombia, 15-7; and the men defeated Japan, 15-11.
The week-long tournament, hosted by the sport’s governing body, World Flying Disc Federation, is ultimate’s top international competition, but it might not be for long. Last summer, WFDF was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, which paves the way for its inclusion in the Olympics.
“Our hope is that we’ll be in a position, in 2017, to make a credible pitch to put forward the mixed-gender division of ultimate as a viable candidate for the 2024 Olympics,” the organization’s president, Robert Rauch, told the New Yorker last summer.
Part of the sport’s appeal to the IOC was that it was spectator friendly and it has a low financial and logistical barrier to entry, as noted in a New Yorker story last summer. It is played in more than 80 countries by about 7 million people, and WFDF represents 59 member associations in 56 countries.
“There are still skeptics out there,” said Tom Crawford, the head of USA Ultimate and a former director of coaching for the U.S. Olympic committee, “who say, in response to the IOC decision, ‘They’re just a bunch of pot-smoking hippies and an example of how the Olympic movement is going in the tank.’ There’s also those saying how cool this would be.”
As for this weekend’s championships, the U.S. went 45-0 overall, winning the men’s and women’s masters finals — in addition to the aforementioned sweep of the open, women’s and mixed — and taking home five gold medals. Some of the highlights are below. (Pro tip: A Callahan is like a pick-six, with the interception occurring in the end zone).