If you think an eight-hour car ride to a tournament is bad, try talking to Maurico Otalvaro. Mauricio is the captain and coach of Kie, a team all the way from Medellín, Colombia that is rounding out the US Open’s mens pool of eight. Thanks to frequent international travel and a strong relationship with top US teams, Sockeye in particular, Kie has become one of Colombia’s best-known ultimate teams. Skyd’s Juan Sebastián Galeano spoke with Mauricio Kie’s build-up to the US Open, what it hopes to get out of a trip to Colorado Springs, and Colombian ultimate in general.
Juan Sebastián Galeano: First off, tell us how you found out about the US Open and the possibility of participating.
Mauricio Otalvaro: We found out about the tournament through the USA Ultimate site. We waited for an official invitation, which was achieved through the AJUC (Colombian Ultimate Player’s Association) for any Colombian teams that were interested in participating.
JSG: How many teams did the AJUC invite?
Mauricio: In mixed, Euforia was invited; the Open club team Euforia was ranked 3rd at Nationals since there is no Mixed division in the AJUC. In Women’s, Aerosoul, who is ranked 4th. In Open, there is Kie, which is currently ranked 2nd nationally.
JSG: When did Kie receive the invitation? How did the team proceed from there?
Mauricio: At the end of February, we received the official invitation and called out to players that wanted to accompany us. I went to Bogotá in the middle of March to see players from Bogotá and Ibague and at the end of March, we began practices. The practices were split between groups in Medellin and groups in Bogota.
JSG: So you opened the team up to players that don’t usually play with Kie. How come?
Mauricio: Unfortunately, we didn’t have our whole roster [available for the US Open] for several reasons. One is that twelve of our players are participating in Junior Worlds in Ireland representing Colombia. Others are injuries, players leaving for other parts of the world and lack of an adequate budget. This is why we seek to reinforce our team: to have the [best] possible presentation in such an elite tournament.
JSG: You went to ECC in 2009. How are your expectations for the US Open different from that experience?
Mauricio: ECC was the first time we went overseas as a club to an elite level tournament and it was the first time we faced top-10 American teams that we only knew from videos from Sarasota. Now teams that are travelling are losing their stage fright and seek step-by-step objectives.
JSG: Can you give me one of those objectives?
Mauricio: To show fast, skilled Ultimate; A way of playing that doesn’t stop running and competing with intensity. We know it isn’t easy to win, but we won’t give up our defeats easily.
JSG: Knowing the strengths of American teams, what changes are made strategically when compared to playing at the Colombian national level?
Mauricio: A lot changes tactically since we play without wind and with players of average height (for us). It will be completely different in Colorado Springs. Our strength won’t be our vertical game nor our 50-yard hucks.
JSG: Is intensity a cornerstone of Colombian Ultimate?
Mauricio: Not of everyone, but definitely of the ones that have began to travel and project themselves internationally. Colombian Ultimate is also characterized by not giving up and playing with lots of heart.
JSG: What are some other characteristics of the Colombian brand?
Mauricio: Fast legwork and emotion.
JSG: What should the average American follower of Ultimate know about Colombian Ultimate?
Mauricio: As more and more [Colombian] teams attend tournaments in the US and Canada, our level will continue to rise and the evolution of Colombian Ultimate will continue at a steady pace. We are very young with less than 10 years of competitive and organized Ultimate. Also, that we are open to teams from the US and Canada to come and play in Colombia. They will be more than welcome and they’ll see an excellent level of play.