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Let them soar high

Sky’s the limit for these Frisbee freaks -- Photos: V. Sreenivasa Murthy  

A major contribution from your side can make India’s first ever women Frisbee team’s dream come true. They are all set to participate in the Ultimate World and Guts Championships in June this year. The team members come from a cross-section of society, with over 30 per cent of the team from underprivileged backgrounds. They are travelling far and wide despite their hectic schedules in school and work to practice and have received some support from partners but are looking to raise funds through crowd funding at https://www.ketto.org/firstever.

So far, they have raised close to 12 lakhs, but to cover the full cost of travelling to London, where the Championships will be held, they need 48 lakhs. There are 12 days left to achieve this target. The all-men’s team has already participated in the World Championships in 2011. Now it’s time for the women to shine.

It is the passion for the sport that drives the team, which was evident when we caught up with them during their practice at Brigade Orchards, Devanahalli. Men and women play the sport with the ratio of men to women being four to three. It is a great leveller as there are no restrictions in age (the age group ranges from 17 to 36) and social status. It is for this reason that the sport is fast catching up India.

It is played in 19 cities with 40 club teams and a dozen national championships. The sport has won India pride at the Under-23 Championships, held last year, where they won the Most Spirited Team Award.

Many players in this team, have participated in the under-23 team. “We speak eight languages and come from six cities,” says Megna Shankaranarayanan, the team captain. Maitry Acharya, from Ahmedabad, shyly says in Hindi that she was selected in Surat.

“I have been playing this sport for three and a half years and I am excited to be a part of this team.” Meenakshi Kallappa from Bengaluru, says in Kannada: “I have been playing for the past four years and am proud to be part of this team.”

It is not for fame that they want to participate in the World Championships. As Manjula Arumugam eloquently says: “One reason I enjoy being a part of the National team is for the pure joy of playing Ultimate. It is not for recognition. It is for the experience. There are no barriers. The game is based on trust, and everyone grows together.” Smiti Arpi adds powerfully: “It is the most inclusive team sport that we have. Ultimate looks at you as a person and not just an athlete.”

Srijan Bhatt believes the team truly represents feminism, as it showcases the athletic strength of women. Sneha Patil from Bengaluru speaks softly about her achievements after much prodding. “I am a national level athlete, a gold medalist in 100 meters and 400 meters hurdles and held a State record for six years.” Maitreyi Ananthapadmanabhan, who lives in Chennai has played football for 11 years. “I started playing Ultimate three years ago. I stopped playing football after I got involved here.”

Following a selection process in Surat and Bengaluru, the team was put together earlier this year.

The spirit of the team is evident from the way each member interacts with the other. No one projects themselves and every team member has a word of praise about their team-mates’ achievements. Bhavya Trivedi, the youngest player in the team, is the spirit captain. “I have been playing Ultimate for five years.

As a spirit captain I initiate discussions on rules and values of spirit.” Megna adds: “The onus of doing it right is on you. If you know you’ve made a mistake, you have to own up to it. Here is where the spirit of the game comes into play.”

Chiai Uraguchi, from Japan, is the second spirit captain, who has lived in Chennai for six years, and uses the values of Ultimate in the social sector at Pudiyador in Chennai.

Sangeetha Manoharan from Chennai has played basketball and began playing Ultimate since class five. “But we didn’t play according to the rules. Six years ago I landed up on the beach and began playing the sport seriously. I conducted the first college championship and now I am trying to reach out to schools and other institutions. I am a psychologist by profession and Ultimate helps you deal with freedom better.” Nima Ponappa says: “I went to watch the Bangalore Ultimate Open Game. I had no idea such a sport existed. I was fascinated by the level of energy each player showed.”

Varsha Yeshwant Kumar from Bengaluru says she played for a local team, Thatte Idli Kaal Soup. “I started playing two years ago. I had no idea what Ultimate was. We downloaded rules from the internet. We participated in the Bangalore Ultimate Open. It’s amazing to see how the sport has grown exponentially.

Tharakai Natesan, from Chennai, who is also the vice president of the Ultimate Player’s Association of India, has been playing for four years and echoes the same sentiments of the other team members about being honoured to be part of the team.

Varsha sums it up best when she says: “I hope this sport is recognised. It teaches you how to live. It’s a minimum non-contact, self referee and multi-gendered. It teaches you how to live in today’s society.”

Ultimate sport details

Ultimate is played on a 100 metre by 37 metre field with two end zones. “You can’t run with the disc, it has to be passed to a team member. Once it is caught in the end zone, it is considered a catch.

There are seven players on a line, which is split into defensive and offensive. “There are handlers who have accurate throwing skills. Then there are the cutters who are quick, agile and can loosen defence,” explains Zahra Kheraluwala, who is from Chennai, has been playing Ultimate for the last five years, is the vice captain of the squad and is the fitness coach, who handles warm ups.

Coach speak

Abhinav Vinayakh Shankarnarayanan, from Madurai, and Udaya Kumar, known as Box, are the coaches for the team. “I represented India in the 2011 World Beach Championships in Beach Ultimate.” Speaking about the history of the sport, Abhinav says: “It started in the 1960s in a college in the US, from where it has grown to be played in 70 countries.”

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Printable version | Apr 13, 2021 5:02:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/indian-women-go-international-with-ultimate-frisbee/article8524165.ece

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