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28 October 2014
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Ultimate Frisbee

It's fast, it's furious... it's Ultimate Frisbee!

Cambridge based Anna and Hannah play for Europe's top 'Ultimate Frisbee' team! BBC Cambridgeshire's Jeremy Sallis went down to a practise session on Jesus Green to find out more about Ultimate Frisbee...


Ultimate Frisbee is a fast and exciting team sport. Cheap and easy to play, all you need is a frisbee and a pitch of grass - which makes it one of the fastest growing sports in the UK.

Jeremy Sallis and Anna Nelson
Jeremy chats with Anna

Down at the practise on Jesus Green in Cambridge, Jeremy grabbed American born Anna Nelson for a chat, and started by asking what Ultimate Frisbee is all about: "Well, two teams play and there are seven people on each side. You play offence and defence.. it's kind of a combination of American Football and Netball, where you score in an end zone area, and when you receive the frisbee you can't run with it, so you have to have a pivot foot like netball."

The Cambridge team are called 'Strange Blue' and they practise every Tuesday night on Jesus Green. As Anna explains: "It's a mixture of townies and also students. The scene in England is really expanding a lot. In Cambridge, for the last couple of years I've been here we usually have maximum 14 players, but it's really improving as you can see and there are about 25 people here tonight!"

You've got to be pretty fit to play Ultimate Frisbee as Anna confirms: "People are surprised when they start playing, you're constantly changing speeds and direction, so it's exhausting and you're literally always running! Apparently there have been some studies on how much running is involved and it's about 5 miles per game that you run in an hour and a half game!"

Anna Nelson plays Ultimate Frisbee
Anna playing for Bliss

Anna shows Jeremy a few of the different throws... the main ones are the backhand, the forehand and the hammer. Apparently the key to throwing a frisbee is to keep it as flat as possible and in order to do that you need to use a lot of wrist action.

Ultimate Frisbee is a non-contact sport but apparently it can get quite aggressive, as Anna says: "With the competitive teams there's a lot of 'laying out' which is when you dive for the frisbee horizontally. There's no fouls allowed, there's no picks, you can't block people and you have a space above you that people can't really come into. There are a few rules, but mostly it's a self refereed sport, which is also kind of a draw for a lot of people in that there's no referees involved. It's also the reason why it probably won't become professional at all, or be in the Olympics, and it keeps it special that way as well."

The Strange Blue team welcomes newcomers and visitors to come along and join in. They practise every Tuesday and Thursday on Jesus Green at 5.30pm. Jeremy asked some of the players about the social side of the game and they all agreed that it's a big part of what attracted them to play Ultimate: "It's a very friendly atmosphere, everyone is very welcoming. We also have annual dinners and pub crawls, so it's lots of fun!"

Although Anna practises with the Cambridge team, she and team-mate Hannah also play for 'Bliss', a top women's team based in London. Bliss is one of the most successful women's team in Europe and many of the players are members of the GB team for Ultimate Frisbee.

Anna plays in World Ultimate Beach Championship
World Ultimate Beach Championship

Anna says: "We play all over Europe and this summer we have the European championships. In order to play at a very competitive level we have to go outside of the UK as there aren't a whole lot of women's teams based here... there's only about 12 right now and it's not really competitive at this point. So we play in Europe but we're also playing in the States this year at the Boston Invitational in June. That's in preparation for the European Championships and also for our two year plan which is to play the World Championships in Perth, Australia in November 2006!"

So along with playing for Bliss and doing a PhD at the Scott Polar Research Institute, Anna's a busy lady... as she says: "There's lots coming up in the next couple of years internationally for Bliss!"

Bliss are currently embarking on a large sponsorship drive to be able to compete in the tournaments leading up to and including the 2006 World Championships. As they are self funded they rely on sponsorship.

To find out more about the team visit www.blissultimate.com

To find out more about Cambridge team Strange Blue visit www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/ultimate/

last updated: 04/05/05
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