Flying disc championships land in Colorado Springs

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The discs will be flying next July when Colorado Springs hosts the first U.S. Open, a major international competition and Ultimate disc convention.

USA Ultimate, the Boulder-based national governing body for Ultimate disc, and Colorado Springs Sports Corp will host the inaugural international contest July 4-8, 2012 at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“We are thrilled to be in Colorado Springs,” said Tom Crawford, USA Ultimate CEO.

The event expects to draw 600 of the world’s best Ultimate disc athletes to play on 24 teams in three divisions – Open, Women’s and Mixed. Until now, USA Ultimate has hosted club championship games for college, high school and youth athletes. Competitors at the U.S. Open will be those who win at the club level.

“The idea for the U.S. Open has been under discussion for a couple of years,” he said. “The concept is to welcome the entire Ultimate community, worldwide, to literally experience our mission of advancing our sport through character, community and competition.”

Ultimate Frisbee dates back to the 1960s when high school students came up with some rules. The game expanded to colleges and gained enough popularity where unofficial national championships were held in the mid to late 1970s. The Ultimate Players Association was formed in 1979 and in May 2010, the organization transitioned from the UPA to USA Ultimate.

Today, there are 40,000 Ultimate athletes in the U.S. and the game is played in 60 countries. Crawford said he will start promoting the U.S. Open in two weeks at the World Congress games in Italy.

“A lot of the athletes who are competing in Italy will be the ones who will come here,” he said.

Crawford would not speculate on the event’s economic impact to the Springs. But, he said the games last five days and he believes international athletes will build their family vacations around the competition.

“People tend to come in early and stay later,” he said.

The U.S. Open includes a convention and will feature experts on topics such as leagues’ best practices, growing membership and participation, coaching education, marketing, revenue generation, high performance training, youth Ultimate and growing the sport in nations across the globe.

“Over the course of five days, we’ll have discussions centering around Spirit of the Game, tons of fun community-building opportunities, a world-class educational experience, social events, and of course, the best competition in the world, all in one location,” Crawford said.

Ultimate disc competition is not an Olympic sport, but in 2001 Ultimate was included in the World Games for the first time as a full medal sport.

“The Sports Corp is thrilled to be a part of the inaugural U.S. Open event,” said Tom Osborne, Sports Corp. CEO. “It is exciting for us to showcase a world-class venue with the Air Force Academy and welcome world-class athletes from the sport of Ultimate.”

For details, go to www.usaultimate.org.