Islington player targets success at World Ultimate Championships
- Credit: Archant
Preparing to try and win a world championship on your own doorstep is a testing enough assignment in itself.
But securing the funds to give you the best chance of achieving that goal can be an uphill task as well – especially when people are often reluctant to take your sport seriously.
Niamh Delaney, a member of the Great Britain mixed Ultimate Frisbee squad, readily admits that there are widespread misconceptions about the sport she has played for almost a decade.
Fortunately for the Islington resident, however, those are not shared by the borough’s leisure services provider GLL, who selected her as one of several local athletes eligible for support.
Now Delaney and her GB team-mates are gearing up for the start of the 14th World Ultimate Championships, which gets under way on Saturday at the UCL sports ground in London Colney, adjoining Arsenal’s training facilities.
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The finals take place on June 25 at Allianz Park, the home of European rugby champions Saracens, and the 27-year-old is hopeful that curious north London sports fans could be tempted to come along and watch.
“You get quite a wide range of responses, but increasingly people have heard of the sport or had some exposure to it and I think most of them are intrigued,” Delaney told the Gazette.
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“I get so much out of this sport and it’s given me so much that, although I don’t want to be some kind of crusader, if people are interested, I’m very keen to tell them about it and get them involved.”
“This is a small sport and we don’t receive any funding – so to have the support of GLL is huge in terms of money, but more so in that they’re very understanding and take my sport seriously.
“I’m really grateful to them – they’re interested in learning about my sport and me as an athlete and it’s very convenient to be able to use the training facilities at Sobell Leisure Centre.
“As someone who’s working and training a lot, it’s nice to have one fewer pressure in terms of finding a gym and that allows me to focus on training and helping to run the team.”
Delaney, who featured in the GB women’s team that finished seventh at the last World Championships four years ago, has also acted as player-manager for the mixed squad in recent years.
She is still involved in the management of the side, who triumphed at the recent Windmill Wind-up tournament in Amsterdam and combines those duties with studying for a masters degree in librarianship.
It was academic studies that initially drew Delaney into the sport during her days at Glasgow University, before going on to play for club side Cambridge Ultimate and then the GB sides.
“It really came about by chance,” said Delaney. “Starting at university’s the most common way for people in this country to get involved in the sport.
“One evening early in term I was just looking to do something active, run around with a couple of friends. This was the only sport that was training that night and I was hooked pretty much immediately.
“It’s an addictive sport because there are such a range of skills. I couldn’t throw a disc but there was a lot of running, jumping and diving all over the place!”
The physical requirements of Ultimate Frisbee can be demanding, with the GB players training three or four hours on both days at weekends, on top of weights sessions and skills sessions during the week.
With 30 sides contesting the mixed division at the upcoming tournament, Delaney and her team-mates can expect to be playing an average of two matches a day.
Game advisers are assigned to each fixture – a rare arrangement in a sport which includes elements of hockey, netball and American football but is usually played without officials.
“It’s a unique feature – and perhaps another aspect of the sport that people snigger at,” admitted Delaney, who plays as a cutter – players with the prime role of pressuring opposition defenders and gaining territory.
“We don’t have referees, so all the foul calls, in-out calls and so on are made by players on the pitch. If players can’t agree, then the disc goes back to where it was.
“In our sport there’s an understanding that humans make errors and it doesn’t work unless you trust the opposition and have a high level of respect for them.
“We try to hammer home the message – don’t worry about what you can’t control. Winning in Amsterdam is a really good omen for us as winning finals is a skill in itself, playing under that kind of pressure.
“In all honesty I have very high hopes for this team – we should be in the running. We have the tools and there’s no reason why we can’t be up at the top.”
For information about the tournament, visit www.wugc2016.com