Number of active players: 750
Notable beach tournaments: Bundesbeach, Ex-on-the-Beach (which has a flawless Swiss pedigree, despite being hosted in France, just south of Lake Geneva)
Past participation in beach championships: WCBU 2004, WCBU 2007, ECBU2008, WCBU2011
Division participation at ECBU 2013: Open, Women, Mixed, Open Masters
The Zeroth Law of Beach Ultimate (beach ultimate is played on sand) kind of puts Switzerland’s beach ultimate lovers in an uncomfortable position, as the country has just enough sandy beaches to make for a couple of decently-sized fields. It has been the case at least since 2009, when an ultimate-loathing storm swallowed the shores of the river Maggia, in Tessin, which had hosted 8 editions of the legendary Magic Maggia hat. The little remaining sand is now scattered along rivers and lakes throughout the country, only really hospitable three months per year and mostly packed with whole communities of non-ultimate-enthusiasts.
But geography and bad climate certainly could not stand between the engaged and travel-ready Swiss ultimate community and the sandy world of beach disc sports. Swiss teams and players of all levels regularly attend all major beach tournaments in Europe (one highlight: the long-standing and quite successful relationship between the Swiss on UTI and SeXXXpensive at Paganello) and the country has sent national teams to all WCBUs and ECBUs so far. Switzerland even got a couple of medals with its Open team, and won Spirit twice (with Open in 2004 and Mixed in 2007).
While there are no pure beach teams in the country, nor plans to start a Beach Ultimate National Championship any time soon, over the last few years Swiss teams have restarted organizing a couple of regular beach hat tournaments. The winterly indoor Bundesbeach, in particular, has revived the beach hype that had disappeared with Magic Maggia’s beach, and has allowed a number of non-elite/old-timers/aficionados to try the joys of sand, definitely leading to an increased interest for Beach Ultimate in the local ultimate community.
With teams in 4 divisions, Switzerland’s presence at ECBU more or less mirrors the level of its teams on grass, with a strong Open team, a Women’s team with a lot of potential and relatively less competitive Mixed and Masters team. Let’s take a closer look at the teams:
A solid group of players from the country’s best open teams, the Swiss Open National will start ECBU 2013 as first seeded, definitely aiming to bring back home some precious metal. They are defending their 2008 European Champions title and have already confirmed their level at the 2011 WCBU. In Lignano, with a team based on the same core of players who will be playing in Calafell, the Swiss had some impressive performance, ending up 3rd, only losing to the US in the semis and giving the Americans possibly the toughest game of the tournament. Switzerland then proceeded to clearly beat Italy (12-6) for the bronze and to finally rank best European team.
The team will be led by Captains Michael Martinec and Simon Achermann and is a remarkable mix of experience (Lorenz Stauffer and Dave Moser), talent (Mario Baumann and Basil Furrer) and physical presence (Armin Ambuhl and Harald Ohla). Even without the Migliorettos and WCBU team top-scorer Robin Brüderlin (gone west for the USA Ultimate season), the team only lines up players with years of experience in top-level European ultimate, who will make for tough matchups for virtually any player in the Championship.
Under the name of SwissAir, Switzerland Open was able to get playing time and confidence at BUM, their preparation tournament, where they finished undefeated, beat Spain and Poland, and pulled off a universe point win after a tight final against Munich’s Zamperl.
High expectations on the performance of the Swiss boys at ECBU seem absolutely legitimate. It’s only up to them to confirm their value, but they have already showed numerous times to be perfectly able to manage the pressure.
This year’s women’s championship is only the nation’s second edition, but Switzerland has quite a tradition of top-level women ultimate. The girls’ results on sand, though, have not been as good as on grass. The team finished 9th out of 10 at the last WCBU, but showed some good playing against better-ranked teams. This year they are building on a core of players that has been playing together for years, both on previous beach and grass national-team competitions and with all-star pick-up Lotus.
Under the lead of Captains Melanie Kunz and Olivia Hauser, the team will rely on Claudia Strehler’s enormous contribution on D and O, on Angela Ullmann’s solid handling and on Katrin Grenacher‘s movement downfield. Mandy Lobel’s big defensive plays and a deep group of promising players, who will contribute legs on defence and cuts on offence, complete the team.
Switzerland Women prepared for ECBU with a few training days and by playing Paganello and Bibione. They beat Chupa for a 7th place at Paga, playing extremely well on occasions, harshly losing a couple of matches that influenced their final ranking, but also giving two universe-point games to Paga champions Super Hot Pot and to the German national team. In Bibione they managed to get 2nd place, clearly losing the final to the Germans (12-5), but playing well in all the pool matches, where they beat convincingly Italy and Austria and gave another universe-point game to the German Women.
Overall, Switzerland Women have showed talent and the potential to give a hard time to all European teams. Seeded 5th, their chances of a top-4 ranking will depend much on the level of the opponents, but even more on the game they will manage to play in Calafell.
Switzerland has traditionally put less emphasis on Coed than on Open and Women, but this has not prevented its Mixed national team to have some excellent moments (notably the 6th place at the 2011 WCBU). This year’s selections managed to raise a lot of interest in the Swiss ultimate community and have resulted in a team that adds to a core of WCBU 2011 players a solid group with plenty of common experience at club level and a handful new additions.
With the team’s 2011 WCBU male top-scorer and co-coach Meinrad Andermatt is out for an injury, it will be up to the others to take up the baton. Beach old-timers Asli Yaman and 2007 WCBU Mixed Captain Christian “Buddha” Schneider will lead the group on the field. Watch out for Dennis Hotz’s super-dynamic handling and Lukas Kahwe Smith’s technique, and expect big plays on D and O from ex-Fury player Emily Wisnosky and from the Zurichs lot, with Anneli Andersson, Dani Schmidt, Esther Müller and Lorenz Grämiger standing out.
Still under construction, Switzerland finished 18th at Paga, after early losses against Germany, Finland and the tournament’s revelation Ireland, yet displaying good potential and the ability to play in any weather conditions. The team’s level kept growing in Bibione, where the Swiss only lost 2 close pool games, enough to take them to a three-way tie and to the middle pool. They played consistently well throughout the weekend, had excellent team spirit and finally ranked 13th out of 32 teams, with a convincing 12 wins/2 defeats record and a clear win in a friendly match against final Italy, who finished 9th.
Swiss Mixed is initially seeded 12th. Achieving a top-10 final ranking will probably depend on winning against a few direct opponents the team has not had the chance to match up with this season. The girls and guys, though, have shown to be able to play well against any opponent – everyone should watch out…
Trusting their skills, mutual knowledge and understanding of the game on sand, Switzerland’s Open Masters chose not to play any preparation tournament at all this year and reduced their training to a minimum. Instead they plan an early rendez-vous in Calafell a few days before ECBU, for lots of hard work and some leisure. If the last-minute high-intensity training camp will suffice to build a cohesive team with good structure and flow remains to be seen, but it certainly is a smart way to avoid the miserable, hurricane-like conditions of most European spring beach tournaments so many other teams seem eager to experience.
Lack of playing time and direct match-ups with WCBU opponents make it pretty hard to anticipate how the Swiss Open Master might do. With most of the best players in the age group either still playing Open/Coed or not available, the team will not line up any superstar. But it will be able to build on the strengths of a group that has been playing together since EUC 2011 (6th place and spirit winners) and WCBU 2011 (8th place).
The guys are seeded 7th and again will be led by coach Gili Betschart, who aims to build a good team spirit and a positive environment where the group plays at its best and everybody has a good overall experience.
Fun fact: next time you strap the Velcro on your sandsocks don’t forget to thank George de Mestral from Canton Vaud – and his no-less-Swiss dog.
Article by Lorenzo Guadagno