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