“What’s the journey like to Worlds?” We were pretty sure everyone like us, was just dying to know. Our undying curiousity led to a series of interviews with the Singapore represents. Kickstarting the series is Timothy Teo, captain of our  Singapore National Men’s Team, who will be flying our red flag  in London this June for the Worlds Ultimate & Guts  Championship (WUGC) 2016.  

GenderMah!, Singapore’s annual Open and Women Tournament was held earlier in April and oh-boy, what a tournament it was! Gathering the participation of over 20 local teams, the weekend was  filled with great plays and even greater spirit. Ask anyone present at the Opens final and you’ll hear of the highly anticipated matchup between defending champions Crackerjacks and the Singapore National Men’s Team.  A seesaw match that saw both team trading leads was eventually won by Singapore National Team by the slightest of margins – 15-14 on Universal Point.  We  seek out the inside scoop from Singapore National Team’s Captain Titi Teo about the tournament and also their journey to Worlds…

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The Huddle | Photo Credits: Xijie Lee

1) Hi Titi! Congrats on the remarkable win at GenderMah! Could you share us some of your thoughts about the tournament and finals this year?

GenderMah was a key date on our team’s calendar in our lead up to WUGC, as we knew that it was the only competition, other than AOUCC, that we would be able to play as a team and iron out the kinks. This year’s competition was especially tough with the top 8 teams all capable of playing at a really high competitive level. We were truly pushed to our limits from the very first pull of the tournament all the way to the last score of the finals.

Crackerjacks, our finals opponent, is a team comprising of the most exciting and talented players in Singapore, while being able to strike a fine balance between the youth and the experienced. The previous encounters I had with Crackerjack were never an easy affair, with them regularly pushing us to our limits (sometimes beyond). We knew that the finals against them would be a nail biter and every point was going to be hard earned. The finals went all the way down the wire. Fortunately we were able to clinch the title on universal point.

 

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Singapore National Men’s Team with their shiny GenderMah! gold medals | Photo Credits: NickRaphael See

2) Crackerjack chalked up an early lead in the finals, but the Singapore National Team managed to roar back and clinch the win in the end. What helped turn the game around? Were there any adjustments or advice on the sidelines?

Crackerjacks built up a sizeable lead in the first half by capitalising on our errors. They made very quick transitions from defense into offense and scored the early points to get themselves a relatively big head start to the game. But in the second half, we tweaked our defense to emphasize more on defending the deep and placed added pressure on the handlers. That strategy paid dividends. We were able to break them right from the start of the second half. Riding on this new defensive game plan, we built our momentum back up and eventually leveled the score. From there, we then fought to trade points till it got to universe.

3) Finals apart, what do you think was the toughest game of the tournament?

Every game had its own difficulties and challenges, but our most testing game of the tournament was probably against Chuckies in the Semi-Finals. Chuckies has a very well-balanced team and they were able to match us at both our short and deep game.

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Demetrius Tan (SG Opens) snatching the disc right out of the air | Photo Credits: Faizal Basir

4) Were you satisfied with how the team performed throughout GenderMah?

We came into this tournament with a smaller sized roster of only 19 players. Though not an optimal number for a two day opens tournament, our players fought hard against the tough competition and bigger squads. By finals, we were down to 17 players due to injuries. Despite that, the team performed beyond expectations. Every player dug deep into their reserves so our team could finish on a high note.

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Tian Loon (SG Opens) marking up against Wei Liang (Disc Knights) | Photo Credits: Terry Tan

5) In the past two years, there has been a change in the Singapore Ultimate scene, with the focus slowly shifting towards Open and Women teams. What are your thoughts on this?

Contrary to Singapore’s current Ultimate scene, the world’s scene is very gender dominant, with most national teams placing stronger emphasis on their Open and Womens division, as compared to Mixed. The pace of Opens is much quicker and players have to step up in order to match up to the increased speed and athleticity of the game. On the other hand, the Womens division allow the ladies to step up and take on the bigger roles in the game. Overall, our increasing focus on the gender division significantly contributes to the development of our local players both in a physical and skills sense. It will definitely help us match up better to our foreign counterparts.

SG Opens Team vs Thirsty Camels | Photo Credits: Xijie Lee

Highfiving after the game | Photo Credits: Xijie Lee

6) What do you think about your current team heading to WUGC 2016 in two months’ time?

The Singapore Opens Team is well balanced with a mix of elite handlers and fundamentally strong cutters. Our players are equipped with a good array of skills and we are thankful for the experience that each player brings with them. As of this moment, we need to piece the jigsaw pieces together and develop more chemistry. That would be key to ensuring things run smoothly at WUGC, though we definitely expect to meet tough teams who will challenge that.

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Singapore National Team No. 3 – Erick Artavia In Action | Photo Credits: Erwin Soo

7) And how has the preparation of the Singapore National Team been so far?

As the team consists of players from 4 different clubs in Singapore, scheduling our training times has not been easy. Eventually, we found a common timeslot on Saturday afternoons after club trainings. However, with it being the second training of the day for most of us, it has definitely been tiring. Nonethelesss, we strive to be as efficient and productive as we can – whether it is the way we conduct trainings, teach tactics or practice structures that we will be utilizing for the tournament.

8) Give us sneak peek to usual training session for Worlds.

We spend our training sessions mostly mastering the tactics well and finetuning our game play. Practicing our lines and set plays is also key to establishing the chemistry we need for Worlds. We quite often zoom in on our defensive structures to make sure they work. If we want to be successful at WUGC, we need to have several defensive plays in our arsenal, in order to  match up to our opponents. We need to make sure that our defense can clamp down their handlers and shut out their mids.

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Captain Timothy Teo (SG Opens) vs Hong Kong at AOUC 2015 | Photo Credits: Eric Lim S C

9) In 3 words, summarize the playing style of the Singapore National Team.

Discipline, Structure, Flair.

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Timothy Teo hard on the mark | Photo Credits: Kenneth

10) The National Team will be going up against some of the best teams and players in the world. What are the areas you think the National Team hold the advantage or can look to exploit when facing them?

One advantage we have that we definitely need to use would be our cutting speed. In terms of our height to speed ratio relative to the other foreign teams at Worlds, I have a feeling we are better stacked in terms of speed. We bagged the structures that would highlight more of our strengths than weaknesses. We need to focus on maintaining the game at a relatively quick speed with fast and shorter passes. Our hucks into the end zone would need to be deeper than usual as well so we can use our speed to run to, rather than have to bid against the taller opponents.

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Support The Singapore National Team for WUGC 2016! | Photo Credits: Ultimate Players Association (Singapore)

11) What are the goals and targets for the Singapore National Team at WUGC 2016?

My personal aim is to finish as one of the Top 3 Asian Teams.

12) Name us your favorite ultimate player.

Dylan Freechild. An all-rounded player with frequent highlight reel worthy sick plays.

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Dylan Freechild of the Dallas Roughnecks | Photo Credits: Kim Stoltze Walker

13) A word of advice to any player hoping to go for worlds in the future?

As one of the fastest growing sports in the world, Ultimate will become more competitive. Keep up with the competition by putting in hard work, practice and patience. I cannot emphasize enough on getting more disc time – it will help to improve your game loads.

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The Singapore Opens Team! | Photo Credits: Ultimate Players Association (Singapore)

We wish all the best to our Singapore Opens Team for WUGC 2016! #teamsingapore #singaporepride

Stay tuned to the next interview of our WUGC 2016 Series. Read more interviews here.

Meanwhile,  check out the final standings & photo coverage of GenderMah! 2016:

PS: Thirsty Camels would like to thank and give all photo credits to the dedicated Ultimate photographers of the local scene. Also, big thanks to UPA(S) for once again pulling off yet another great tournament for us.  Cheers!