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The MoscowTimes.com

 

A Little Cold Can't Stop Ulimate Frisbee Flying

By Joy Ziegeweid   
Special to The Moscow Times.   

In the thrill of leaping to catch a Frisbee, you might not notice that you're not running through a grassy field but pounding down a green-colored gymnasium floor.

Every winter Ultimate Frisbee, proves chasing a letayushchaya tarelka, or flying plate, is so fun, people will endure a few hours in a run-down school gym for a chance to play.

Even without fresh air and sunny skies, winter practices always draw a respectable crowd of enthusiastic players. Many learned about the game by word of mouth, gave it a try and got hooked, then rushed to recruit more friends in turn. For the uninitiated, Ultimate, as it is known, is a noncontact sport whose rules somewhat resemble American football. Players on offense pass a disk to one another, attempting to reach the end zone, while the defense tries to intercept the disk or knock it down.

Ultimate has gained a loyal following in the West, especially on American college campuses, since it was created in 1968. The game is much newer here, but has made quick converts.

Its history in Moscow can be roughly dated to 1996, when Dmitry Fakeyev, 29, met some Americans living and working in Moscow who were Frisbee fans. They practiced on a field at Moscow State University, and he decided to try it, along with a handful of others. "In a year," Fakeyev said, "there were enough to make a whole team."

And it's only kept growing since then. Fakeyev is captain of Moscow's first team, Dolgoruky, which now has about 15 players. It was joined this year by BaRBosS, a men's team that has about nine players. A women's team has about 10 players at any time -- a team only needs seven players to play.

The teams are mostly Russian, with some expat players joining for as long as they're in town.

All three teams practice together -- usually on Saturday and Monday, with another women's practice on Wednesday -- in the evenings, which are sweaty and boisterous, full of shouts, flying disks and running people.

Diana Babanova, 21, says she began playing in August of last year. "I have friends who play, so I tried it and I liked it. I've never done sports, but this is not a standard sport," she said.

Yulia Struzhentsova, captain of the women's team, was introduced to Frisbee a year and a half ago after hearing about the game from a friend.

"I didn't understand anything," said Struzhentsova, 24, laughing. "Where to run, where to throw, what was going on. ... But now I love it. It's a fantastic sport."

Many players' involvement with Ultimate originates with Fakeyev, who's always recruiting.

"We're interested in the development of the sport, both in Moscow and in Russia in general," he said. "Not very many people know about it here, and so we tell about it as much as we play."

However, while there might not be many Ultimate players, those who do play are serious about it. Dolgoruky's first competition was the Championship of Russia in 1999, where they finished fourth among five teams. In just two years, they improved enough to take fifth place in a field of 12 teams at the 2001 Veliky Novgorod tournament.

And on the women's team, oth Fakeyev and Struzhentsova are excited about the upcoming Veliky Novgorod tournament in Novgorod in February. The tournament includes teams from Russia, Austria, Belarus, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ukraine.

"It'll be lots of fun, as usual," Struzhentsova says. "Everyone knows each other, you see friends from other teams ... and of course, there are always the really important matches, the rivalries. For example, for Dolgoruky, it will be Yu-Piter [a St. Petersburg team], which is the strongest team in Russia. Dolgoruky has never beaten Yu-Piter, and they want to."

At a recent Saturday evening practice, there were some 30 players on hand. Struzhentsova says that numbers fall in the winter because of the weather and other commitments.

But "in the summer, when we play outside on the field, people stop by, play, come along with friends. ... It's warm and fun, and we all hang out afterward and drink beer," she said.

Whether you want to start right now or wait until summer, Fakeyev says, in order to join, you only need "athletic shoes and the desire to play."

For non-Russian speakers, there is no new vocabulary to learn, as all the terms used in tournament play are in English.

Check out the teams' web site at http://mfc.arg.ru for more information or call Dmitry Fakeyev at 319-3674.