This article kicks off Skyd’s country preview series for the European Championships of Beach Ultimate 2013, to be held in Calafell, Spain from June 27-30. We take a look at this sunny nation’s attempts to please the home crowd by bringing home some hardware.
Number of active players: 415
Notable beach tournaments: Torneo Internacional de Beach Ultimate, Coman Fruta Cabrones, Costa Brava, Porró Open
Past participation in beach championships: WCBU 2004, WCBU 2007, ECBU2008, WCBU2011
Division participation at ECBU 2013: Open, Women, Mixed, Open Masters, Mixed Masters
When one thinks about ultimate in Spain, the first place that comes to mind is the beach. “Ultimate playa” in this Mediterranean country is more than just a leisure sport – it’s a lifestyle. The tradition of playing on sand harkens back to ultimate’s first arrival to Spanish borders: on the Canary Islands in 1995, a group of friends who liked to throw the disc around on the beach decided to form a team – Pio Pio (now called Atis Tirma) – to participate in the European championships in Fontenay le Compte, France. A few years later, ultimate arrived separately to the famed beach destination of Castelldefels (near Barcelona), when a group of foreigners living in the area decided to show their friends the ways of the disc – soon forming the beach team Patatas Bravas.
Although the ultimate scene in Spain has grown substantially since then, with most of the current 25 club teams practicing only on grass, the beach is still regarded as the focal point of Spanish ultimate; more beach tournaments are held here than in any other European country. International tournaments like Costa Brava, the Torneo Internacional de Beach Ultimate, Coman Fruta Cabrones, and the Porró Open draw players and teams from all over Europe (and the world) to enjoy sand, waves, sun, and good vibes.
It’s no surprise, then, that Spain intends to give the hometown audience a good show by preparing their five national teams for success in each of their divisions. In contrast to some other European nations, the selection process for ECBU was run from the top down: last June, the Spanish federation’s selection committee looked at all active players and published initial selection lists, with those players not selected encouraged to apply if they thought they had what it takes. Next, captains were chosen for each of the teams, and all five of the teams came together in early March for a concentración in Calafell, where they learned plays, practiced strategy, and gave the captains a final chance to evaluate each player’s strengths before final cuts were made. Each team was then given full autonomy to organize preparation tournaments and team weekends, coordinate logistics, and so on. Let’s take a closer look at each of the teams:
The Spanish Open team has a cadre of very strong players that should be able to keep up with Europe’s best. They finished 7th (4th among European teams) at the WCBU 2011 in Italy, where they were able to stick with eventual champions USA in what started out as a very close quarterfinals game, until USA broke several times in a row to take a clear win. Spain then fell to Germany 13-10 in the backdoor bracket.
The team will be led by handler core Justin Palmer, Alberto Rodríguez, and Javi Perez. Palmer, an American who has been living in Spain and playing with the national team for a number of years, was the top scorer in the Mixed division for Spain at WCBU 2007, while Perez garnered Most Assists honors. Look for big plays and layouts from Ricardo Marquez and Amador Alvarez, as well as dominant downfield play from big men Alberto Sosa Rodriguez and Jeff Trench. Rounding out the roster are a few under-23 players who are also playing with La Roja for the first time. The team leadership hopes that they’ll add legs late into the tournament as well as gain valuable experience for the future.
Spain Open went to one preparation tournament, BUM, where they finished 3rd behind Switzerland and Munich’s club team Zamperl, with key wins over Poland and Denmark. A semifinals berth at ECBU would be a great accomplishment for the Spanish Open team; fans will have to wait to see if they can overcome perennial European beach powerhouses Italy, Germany, and Switzerland.
With 150 active players and only one dedicated women’s tournament, women’s ultimate is still nascent in Spain. ECBU 2013 will mark the second time Spain has sent a women’s team to a nations championship. The Spanish women’s team attended WCBU 2011 and finished in last place. However, no players are repeating from that team. The 2013 team, led by captains Julie Siata, Elena de Dalmases, and Marisol Diaz Dominguez, looks quite a bit younger than the 2011 team, combining a group of athletic women with less experience, but quite a bit of spice. Opponents should watch out for Dalmases, Dominguez, and Marta Mampel in the handler positions, who will look to find Siata and Raquel San Jose Garcia in the endzone.
Spain Women went to one preparation tournament, Cremas Beach Challenge, where they finished in fifth place out of ten teams and pulled out one key upset over the French Women team on universe point in an upwind-downwind game. At ECBU, Spain will look to use their familiarity with the sand to notch a few wins in pool play, which would be a big accomplishment for this young team.
Mixed ultimate has a strong tradition in Spain, as nearly all tournaments in the country are mixed-only. Although the selection committee hasn’t put an emphasis on any certain team this year, the mixed team has traditionally been one of the strongest. At WCBU 2007, the Spanish mixed team was the surprise of the tournament: they dominated nearly every opponent and finished pool play as the only team to defeat the eventual champion USA. However, roster ineligibility meant that Spain was classified as a “tyro” team and was unable to advance to semifinals. Although they finished the tournament with only one loss, they had to accept a 4th place classification.
The 2013 Spanish mixed team is more than eligible, and is carrying quite a large roster as well: 18 players in total. Expect them to play very tight lines in the most competitive games; for the men, Carles Oliver “Litus” Casanellas, Orión Santana, Pedro Padilla and Alexis Martín Rodríguez will touch the disc quite a bit, while two of the Americans, Andrea Holm and Diane Davis, as well as Peixets standout cutter Araceli Mostazo will likely see a lot of playing time from the women’s side. For the rest of the games, the team will likely open up the roster to give the rest of their players, many of whom are debuting for the national team, some valuable experience.
Spain Mixed’s tournament results have made it hard to get a good idea of their progress so far. Last September, a scaled-down and weaker version of the team attended Burla Beach Cup in Italy and finished 11th in the Mixed division. However, many of that team’s players did not make the final cuts. The only real preparation tournament with the full team was the recent Calafell Arena, where Spain finished a respectable 4th out of 16 teams. They fell to Portugal Mixed by two points, and had two games against Ireland, the first of which was wrought with mental mistakes and turnovers from the Spaniards, eventually falling 4-9 to the lads and ladies in green. However, in the semifinal, Spain came out firing on all cylinders and took Ireland (the eventual champions) to universe point, losing only by one, 8-9. Success for Spain at ECBU will depend on their mental game: if they can maintain team cohesion, consistency, and value the disc, they are sure to surprise a number of teams.
The Spanish Open Masters team is the only Spanish team that will see the majority of its players return from WCBU 2011, where they finished fourth (and won the spirit prize). Running down the roster reads like a who’s who of the early days of Spanish ultimate. Although the years have passed, many of these players are still as deadly as ever, and nearly all of them can handle. On the beach, expect to see Tim Kohlstadt and Miguel Perez boosting it long, while Uwe Schmid and Nicolas Chauveau provide steady, consistent handles. Ignacio Gavira and Alberto “Albertote” Gilsanz can make big plays on both sides of the disk, while Elvio Suarez and Albert Mallada will use their speed to attack the zone.
Like their Mixed counterparts, Spain Masters attended Burla Beach Cup in September of last year, but with a much weaker version of the team. Final cuts were made in March, and because of family and work conflicts, they haven’t had the chance to play a preparation tournament together. However, recently they had a team weekend near Barcelona where they were able to scrimmage Portugal’s Open team, as well as some of the other local Barcelona teams, winning all of their games. The Spanish Masters team’s medal chances depend on the rest of the European competition. Based on their results at WCBU 2011, they certainly have a chance of making the semifinals, but they themselves acknowledge they will be playing against a number of countries for the first time which are entering the tournament as total unknowns. In any case, this team has great chemistry, great vibes, and will definitely look to continue their great spirit record in Calafell.
ECBU 2013 will mark the first time Spain has sent a Mixed Masters team to an international tournament. This team has a large difference in experience between it’s players, with the large majority playing on an international stage for the first time. The captaincy of Eric Erickson, David Quesada, and Marta Alvarez Rojas will lead the team. Look for equally big performances from Maria Vergara and Marc Batllori, the latter of which is a solid handler that can create problems for other teams, Catalan-style.
The Mixed Masters team attended one preparation tournament, Calafell Arena, where they won both the spirit and the performance prizes (all teams at Calafell must perform a dance or performance routine set to music, the Mixed Masters brought the house down). On the field, they struggled to find chemistry in their earlier games, falling to a few of the Spanish club teams, but rebounded on Sunday with two victories to lock in the 9th place spot. At ECBU, look for them to further build chemistry throughout the weekend, and, like the Open Masters team, be in good contention for the spirit prize.
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