Vernon’s Andy Collins had just one ultimate tournament title to his credit before 2008.
His second one was a world championship.
Collins, who started playing ultimate in his former hometown of North Bay, Ont. in 1995, is headed back to the world stage with his team, Vancouver’s Furious George, in Osaka, Japan to defend its crown.
The competition, sanctioned by the World Flying Disc Federation, started Thursday, with Canada in a pool with Finland, Mexico, Colombia and Phillipines.
“It’s been quite the experience, but I’m sure this will be my last worlds,” said the 36-year-old real estate agent, who has travelled with Furious all over North America, and once to Columbia.
Collins first got on the Vancouver team’s radar in 2007 while he played with a Calgary club team called Invictus. They added him for their world cup run.
“What a great year to play and win a world title in Vancouver,” said Collins, who was surprised by the physical demands of playing in international competition.
“In 2008, I really had no idea. When it is a true world year, you play two games a day, which is different for us.”
Furious George flew out Tuesday to give the team a few extra practice days overseas, and a chance to adjust to the time change. Compared to 2008, where the team could simply rent a hotel in downtown Vancouver and commute to UBC every day, Collins says planning for the Japan tour has been a challenge.
“The logistics of trying to get to the fields is proving to be a different experience for us. It’s been a daunting task.”
Furious George selected its world roster at a tryout in early April on the coast. They have since held training camps in Kelowna and Vancouver, and competed in a tournament.
With half the 2008 squad retiring, and a mandate to recruit five out-of-region players, the national team will have a completely different look heading into Japan.
“It doesn’t really affect team chemistry,” said Collins. “We get together quite a bit.”
Just like in 2008, the U.S. entry is heavily favoured to win, but Collins says anything can happen.
“They’re a powerhouse, but it’s attainable if we can get to the finals,” said Collins, noting Japan is ranked third.
“At nationals last year (in Ottawa), we were down three points and we came back to win, which is kind of unheard of. We had a bunch of games like that last year.
“Our talent from top to bottom is very similar. We can role out people that are working very hard and just getting the job done.”
Ultimate is a fast-paced, non-contact field sport that mixes elements of soccer, basketball, football and netball. Staying true to the sport’s roots, games, even at the world championships, are self-officiated.
Collins says the sport has come a long way since he started playing. It is the fastest growing youth sport in North America, with more than 60 Vancouver-area high schools now fielding teams.
For the last three years, Collins has coached Lumby’s Charles Bloom Timberwolves, winners of the last two North Zone titles.
“They’re coming along well; first year I don’t think we won a game,” said Collins, who took the team to a Seattle tourney earlier this year to compete against higher-calibre teams.
Anyone interested in learning about ultimate should the Vernon Ultimate Facebook page. The club holds open sessions Mondays at Polson Park, at 5:30 p.m.