Last year when I came home from Italy, I told myself I would not be leaving the country again for a long time, especially not for work. I know what you’re thinking: What an idiot. Who doesn’t want to travel abroad, especially when it’s for something as cool as photographing Ultimate?
The short answer is that I find traveling by airplane to be very stressful, and being in a country I’m not geographically familiar with even more so. I'd much rather drive across the country in my old, beat-up car to cover a tourney. But when I heard about the possibility to head to London for the World U-23 Ultimate Championships this year, I immediately changed my mind.
All of the teams filled the stands to watch the opening showcase game between the USA and Great Britain Open teams.
I knew this tournament would be an altogether different experience from WUCC. Something really special happens when you bring together young, mega-talented Ultimate players to represent their countries in a week-long World Championship. From the minute the opening ceremonies kicked off, I was certain I’d made a great choice to be there.
Teams mingled prior to the parade of flags.
The energy was electric before the parade of flags. Each country had gathered its teams together, and soon players were mingling with other teams, taking selfies, having dance battles and cheering each other on. No one seemed hesitant to join complete strangers in the festivities, perhaps because a lot of these players had only recently met their own teammates. While the photos came very easily, I think it's impossible to capture exactly how it felt to be there at that moment.
Spirit circle following the opening showcase game between the USA and Great Britain Open teams.
Throughout the week, I saw unprecedented levels of spirit, respect for other teams and countries, and national pride. I also saw some outrageous athleticism that made me reflect on the fact that every single player there was younger than me. (Man, do I feel inadequate. I’m just trying to win my Summer League.*) Ultimate is getting bigger, the talent pool is expanding, and SOTG is as strong as it ever was. WU23UC was such an inspiring tourney to cover, and I can’t wait to get back on a plane for it in two years.
*Editors Note: We lost.
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