One of the big Ultimate tournaments is upon us, the World U24 Ultimate Championships. Under the hot blazing sun of Australia is where nations will battle it out for supremacy. With an age restriction making the teams full of youths and vigor, we are expecting to see lots of energy and exciting plays all round. This article is here to add a little flavour to the tournament, especially to those new or unfamiliar to the Ultimate scene.
This tournament is a platform for players to make a name from themselves in the Ultimate scene, those in the GB teams have gone to play for top UK teams in all division despite most of the players picking up Ultimate at university. This year we have several Warwick Bears alumni playing: Ali Thomas (GB Women), Leia Turner (GB Mixed) and Chris Sun (GB Mixed) and Laura Oh (Malaysia Mixed, Captain).
*This tournament is usually labelled as WU23 but due to this year the event being set in Australia in the summer the event for this year has been relabelled to WU24
The last tournament of this kind was set in London, UK (it’s really St. Albans). USA with their usual dominance took away the Men’s and Mixed Golds, but the real highlight in the finals was definitely the Women’s. Japan managed to put in a tremendous performance, playing their own style of Ultimate and beating USA convincingly. I highly recommend the game.
GB put in a strong performance in that tournament with Men finishing 4th, Women 8th and Mixed 5th. The Men’s team gathered the most excitement with a thrilling win against Germany in the quarter-finals but lost to eventual winners USA in the semi.
However that is all in the past, rosters have changed drastically as players have ‘graduated’ and so let us move on to this year.
USA: The Powerhouse
They are bound to be competitive in all divisions and seriously capable of sweeping all the Gold medals just as they did for WUGC 2016. This team is full of stars with many of the players having their own Callahan videos. Some fan favourites on this team include: Jack Williams, Ben Sadok, Parker Bray etc – there are simply too many to list. The only point of worry for the USA is the relatively small amount of practice time the teams have had together and so cohesion and chemistry might be their weak point. However even with no practice together I wouldn’t be surprised if they still pull it together and take home three golds.
Canada: Flying Geese
As with the USA, the Canadians are always gunning for Gold. And they certainly do not lack the star power. Captains Nathan Hirst and Ben Burelle have stepped up their game, with Hirst having a prominent role for Canada’s Open team in WUGC 2016 and Burelle having played for the AUDL team Toronto Rush, garnering several highlight plays. There is one other name that can’t go unmentioned… Darren Wu. After flying Canada to victory in WUJC 2014 he has now moved on to play in the U24 division. All eyes are on him to see if he will provide us with another dominating performance.
Great Britain: Familiar Faces
Ah, our old boys, hailing from multiple universities all across the country. Through an extensive trial and development period, GB has selected the best of the bunch. Coached by the legendary Sion ‘Brummie’ Scone this team is primed to challenge for the top. From the previous cycle, Will ‘the most underrated player in UK Ultimate’ Rowledge returns to prove himself to the world once again. Axel ‘Jopper’s pal’ Ahmala joins the squad as the spirit captain as well as Loughborough’s Sam Wilson (‘The worst Wilson’ – Dan Wilson). Unfortunately we will have to wait till later rounds to be able to watch GB play (assuming they make it through).
USA: Coming for Zhu/Zuh
Another USA team, another set of superstars. Having the luxury of selecting from a large pool of players, this Women’s team is looking to take back the Gold after losing it to Japan last time. Led by the Callahan 2017 winner Angela Zhu, and offensive juggernaut Julia Schmaltz, not many team seem capable of stopping the US. Another notable player on this team is Jaclyn Verzuh, although not much to say about her except she is just tall.
Colombia: Dancing their way to the Top
Colombia has come out of 2017 blistering hot with the Women’s team Revolution beating top US teams at US Open to take Gold, furthermore, at the World Games they managed to beat USA in pool play. In the center of it all, the lethal twins: Manuela and Valeria Cardenas. At the age of just 18, they are being hailed as two of the top female players in Ultimate. Furthermore, coaching them is Mauricio Moore the same coach who devoted himself to Revolution and the World Games squad, bringing them international fame and success – one can be sure his team is well-drilled. With Valeria and her handling skill directing play, Manuela getting ridiculous layout blocks and Mauricio’s shrew coaching Colombia is set to start 2018 with a bang.
Japan: Returning Champs
Japan returns to WU24, with them they bring Japan’s unique style of Japan. Consisting of short throws, sharp breaks and a poach defense that takes traditional teams out of their comfort zone. There are a lot of things one can talk about regarding Japan’s style of play so refer to this beginner friendly article if you are interested. Regarding the players themselves I admit that I don’t know much about them. Ultimate news from Japan has scarce either due to no coverage or any article being in Japanese. So we only know about Japan through their international performance and they surely have performed.
USA: Still Stacked
The final USA team, still forever stacked. Here we John Stubbs, Anna Thompson, Matt Gouchoe-Hanas to name a few. Stubbs has already established himself by winning the Callahan 2017 award, whilst Gouchoe-Hanas may be looking to win one himself this season. Thompson has recently been a breakout star playing for the USA Mixed team, Philadelphia Amp. Her performance caught the eyes of many at US Nationals.
Malaysia: The Newcomer
Making their first ever appearance at WU24, Malaysian Ultimate has been growing exponentially and this tournament marks one of the milestones. Led by one of our own, Laura Oh, having predominantly played indoors at Warwick due to her inability to cope with cold she still managed to make name for herself. I am sure Bounce will look forward to seeing how the Malaysians perform in this tournament.
Great Britain: Play Mixed
Mixed may often be viewed as secondary compared to Men and Women but not for GB. Viewed by some as the best GB squad we have our own Chris Sun and Leia Turner. There are also several returning U24 players from last time including Leila Denniston, Alexis Long and Andy Lewis (and a few more) who have already cemented themselves at elite level in the UK. However tensions are high among the coaches as Callum Spiers narrowly edged out Alex Mazzon on the popularity contest within the team, we will have to wait and see if this will influence GB’s performance or not.
I only decided to write this article pretty late mainly due to the lack of media previews for this tournament. And so I decided to cover 3 teams from each division, picking the ones I had most to write about. Unfortunately I had to leave out some teams such as GB Women, the hometown Australian teams and many more, so apologies.
There will be plenty of livestream games for free on YouTube so be sure to stay tuned. Also there are Facebook livestream promised by Ali on the UK Ultimate Sofa Sideline page. (And possibly some other Facebook livestreams about).
Broadcasting Schedule: http://wu24perth.com/en_au/game-broadcast
Livestream Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/WFDFChannel
UK Ultimate Sofa Sideline: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1439718906079462/
Main Page: http://wu24perth.com/en_au