Number of active players: ~600
Notable beach tournaments: Sandsplash, Beach National Championship
Past participation in beach championships: WCBU 2004, WCBU 2007, ECBU 2008, WCBU 2011
Division participation at ECBU 2013: Women, Mixed, Open Masters, Mixed Masters, Open Grand Masters
Austria does not have any beaches left over from the imperial days but going to the Adriatic sea to play ultimate is as common for an Austrian ultimate player as it is for an average Austrian to go there to get grilled in the sun. The love for beach ultimate goes so far that since 2012 there are “Austrian Mixed Beach National Championships”, recognised by the states sports authorities, and held in Italy. Austrian Ultimate in general has been on the rise, especially since the government recently granted an official status to the sport and started to cough up some money for junior programs and national teams.
There are some hot spots with good junior programs in Kundl, Tirol and Graz, Styria that have recently been forcing the Viennese Teams that had traditionally dominated the championships to try to get on the same level as far as developing talent. At ECBU 2013, Austria will send five teams, leaving out only the Open division. The Open squad is reorganising after a disappointing showing at the WUGC in Japan, where they got only 11th place. In 2011 at WCBU there were high expectations for the Austrian Open beach team which they were not able to fulfill, finishing in 8th place. This year, the focus for the majority of competitive Open players lies with their club teams.
The Woman Austrian National Team (WANT) started the rebuilding process after a weak showing at EUC 2011 in Maribor. Former captain and EUC Scoring Champion Christine Stelzhammer left for Central America, leaving the captaincy to experienced handler Eva Lackerbauer. Eva switched over from the mixed division, where she had great success with the Viennese Mixed Team “upsadaysie”, finishing 8th overall and best European mixed team at WUCC in Prague 2010. WANT is a long term project aimed to give Austrian female players a chance to gain some high level experience, since the Women’s Division in Austria has had a downturn off in recent years. For this ECBU, the team had two selection tournaments (Prague Winter, Paganello) to determine the squad, and two preparation tournaments (Bibione, BUM) in order for the final roster to develop chemistry and practice their playing system. The selected squad heavily features the athletic talent of Austrian Champion Box Vienna, also coached by Lackerbauer, as well as some skilled players from Graz and Upper Austria. On and off the field, the team has been very organised, even managing to land a traditional Austrian candy producer known for their candy dispensers as a sponsor.
The organized style of play with strict roles started to show some success at BUM in Berlin, which makes the team confident that they will peak at the right time and raise some eyebrows by beating opponents with more experienced squads. In Calafell the Team is seeded 10th and they would be very happy if they could break seeding. No matter what happens at ECBU, the future of Austrian women’s ultimate is in good hands: the current squad might have to battle for their spots at future nations championships, given that the 2012 under-17 European Champions hail from Austria, and these talented girls are sure to turn up the heat in the coming years.
The Mixed squad revolves around a core of players from W.underteam, a team formerly from Vienna that has split up in recent years into a more or less junior team in the capital and in expats-only training with the team on some weekends. Talampaya, the big mixed tournament where W.underteam always has a good showing, was unfortunately swept away by heavy rain this year, allowing the players on the Austrian Mixed team to concentrate on the sand events. The selection process started late in 2012 but in the spring, some of the selected players declared that they would have different focal points for this season and would not be attending ECBU. After a poor showing at Paganello, the captains decided to reinforce the team with some experienced players and to say goodbye to players they thought would not help the team in Spain. The Austrian Mixed Team is now a combination of experienced mixed players and up and coming talent. The captaincy contends that they don’t rely on any “star” players and are a cohesive group that can battle for the upper third in the biggest division at ECBU 2013.
The Masters Division is the only one where a significant number of players from the four top Austrian open teams play. “Oida”, the Austrian Masters Team, is basically the same team that beat USA in the group stage at WCBU 2011, only to lose to them in the final. On their way to the final they dominated the European teams, and they plan to do so in Calafell too. Andrea “Oddi” Furlan, known for his heroics on the field for “Oida” and as President of the European Ultimate Federation, secured the #1 seed and the team is determined to defend it.
“upsadaisy” is the core of the team but, like in Lignano, they have plenty of frisbee royalty from the eastern part of Austria. Notable names are Robert Cerny, German Champion with Feldrenner Mainz several times over, and the Zellinger twins Michi and Hannes, familiar names from playing with “Scandal” in Paganello. One more player to watch is Norbert Eder, a dominant handler who did not play any competitive Ultimate in 2013 but used to be high up on the scoring lists in past events where he took part in.
Like a real masters team, they hardly prepared for ECBU. They had some training sessions and sparring games on grass and they played one beach tournament in Budapest but the beaches of Calafell will be the first time they all come together.
The Mixed Masters team was built around a group of players from the “Wynona Raiders”, based in a suburb of Vienna, that played the WCBU 2011 together. They specialised in Beach Ultimate way back because they hardly ever could field a full squad and now they even have a stronger focus on Beach since their bodies can’t handle the stress of playing on grass any more. These are the ones that organised the first “Austrian Mixed Beach Championships” so they could win something too. Which they did, using their experience to take the win in the absence of the very best Austrian mixed teams. They are known for a slow but effective style of play and some lengthy discussions on the field. For EUC 2013 they picked up some experienced players from all over Austria to help them compete in this six team division.
The players with the best chances to win medals are so old that they almost can remember the days of the great Austrian empire, when you did not have to leave the country to go to the beach. Most of the Austrian Grand Masters are World Champions of Beach Ultimate in the Masters Division in 2004. They are also current vice-World Champions and want to bring home the Gold once again in the 4 Team Division. Lots of them are still playing Ultimate regularly and rumors are they even trained for the event. The team combines the whole governing body of the Austrian Ultimate Federation. Most of them played together in the feared “Groove Connection” team from Vienna, but on the beach they’ll be able to play nice with their former foes from “Catchup Graz”.
Article by Peter Jesse of Autimate Blog