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Local Ultimate Frisbee club takes on the world this August

Did you know that a Singapore Ultimate Frisbee club is seeded 13th in the mixed division for the world's largest international competition for it?

SINGAPORE: Did you know that a Singapore Ultimate Frisbee club is seeded 13th in the mixed division for the world's largest international competition for it? The World Ultimate Club Championships takes place in Italy from August 2 to 9, and Singapore will have a team each in the open, women's, and mixed divisions.

In Ultimate, players score by catching the frisbee in the other team's end zone. The sport is played in about 50 countries around the world, Singapore included. One of the country's top clubs, Shiok! Ultimate, is throwing itself in the mixed division of the World Club Championships in August. Seeded 13th out of 48, it is ahead of Japan and South Korea, but behind the sport's traditional leaders - the US, Canada and Australia.

Clive Myint Soe, the player-coach for Shiok! Ultimate, said: "Clearly they've got a height advantage on us. But I think we're fairly well-drilled, and fairly disciplined, so we'll give them a fight at the minimum."

Singapore finished 18th at the last championship in 2010, a jump from 2006 when two teams were sent - one finished last, the other, 29th.

Ultimate may be an amateur sport in Singapore, but the level of commitment it commands from players is serious. Most of the players in Shiok! have full time jobs, some are students, but they train three times a week. On Saturdays, training is from 9am to 3pm.

Andrea Phua, a member of Shiok!, said: "We just have to be a bit insane, to be honest... It's not often that you get a sport that brings guys and girls together playing on a level playing field. And knowing that you belong to a team, and it's not just a team, it's a family."

THE 'ULTIMATE' RECOGNITION

From virtual non-existence 10 years ago, almost all universities, polytechnics and junior colleges have teams today, while a handful of secondary and primary schools have started it as a co-curricular activity.

The Ultimate Players Association saw membership double in the last five years to about 800 today. It wants to get recognised as a National Sports Association (NSA) - for that, it will have to prove it has the support of clubs and players, and sources of funding, amongst other criteria.

National sports agency Sport Singapore said NSA status is given to sports bodies that have the expertise, network and ability to mobilise resources. Other criteria include recognition of the sport by the International Olympic Committee, or membership of the sport's world federation with Sports Accord, the general association of international sports federations. In the past five years, sports like boxing, handball, ice hockey and muay thai have been given NSA status, bringing the total number to 64.

President of the Ultimate Players Association, Mr Enrique Lee, told Channel NewsAsia the association plans to apply at the end of August.

Mr Lee added: "We're hoping to start a national team programme, and a youth national team programme - so when we're able to reach out to the schools, we'll be able to start a huge flow of students coming into the sport... It actually shows that in Singapore, Ultimate Frisbee is a real sport. It's not just something you play with dogs or on the beach but it's a real game."

With an estimated 150,000 players worldwide, it is a tiny fraction of the hundreds of millions who play football and basketball. So getting more understanding and recognition could be the toughest game for Ultimate.

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