From July 18-25, 2011, Rob McLeod participated in the 2011 WFDF World Overall Flying Disc Championships for the first time and was instantly hooked on the events that make up the Championships. We asked Rob a few questions about his experiences while in Fort Collins this year and what his plans are for the future. Congratulations to Rob on his overall performance at worlds!
1) We all know you as Ultimate Rob….. what’s behind this switch to Flying Disc?
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a switch – more like an evolution. Throwing has always been the thing I loved most about ultimate so for me to compete in other disc sports was going to happen – it was just a matter of time.
2) How did you qualify to be one of two Canadians competing at Worlds?
For the Overalls, at least in its current state, there are no qualifications per se. If you can get the time off work and afford the trip, you can go. However, it was a grueling week since you’re competing in 7 different disc events and every day was from 8-5 straight through. I was exhausted by the time it was done so although anyone could go, it’s not for everyone. I mention its current state because about 30 years ago, they did have a qualification series but back then there were a lot more people competing and they had to have some sort of qualification.
As for how I found out about Worlds, I was actually invited by Jack Cooksey, the 2007 World Overalls Champion. He saw one of my videos on youtube of me throwing an MTA and sent me a message letting me know about Worlds and told me I should come. I actually got to spend a lot of time with Jack at Worlds and we’ve become friends. Because of him, I’m working to be on the WFDF committee as the Canadian rep.
3) What did you do to physically prepare? (I suspect lots of throwing)…. but did you have a program or strategy?
To prepare I basically did as much as I could for the events – I played a lot of disc golf, I went out and practiced self caught flight, I trained in the gym and I did a lot of reading, watching of youtube videos and talking to guys through facebook who would be competing and asking them for advice (Jack and Glen Whitlock, the other Canadian who competed)
4) You got a lot of press coverage leading up to your trip — did that add pressure?
I already put a lot of pressure on myself so having press coverage actually pumped me up and made me more excited to compete since there was the chance that I can share disc sports with more people. For me, the first day of competition is something I’ll never forget. To be surrounded by people from all over the world doing the same thing I am and be totally supportive and excited is an incredible feeling. Knowing that I belong in that crowd and noone is making fun of me for throwing on my own was a feeling of relief. I’m talking to my media contacts about doing follow up stories and will continue to bring awareness to all disc sports.
5) In one of the press interviews you said you expect to learn a lot, especially from the veterans…. so, what did you learn? What were your top three take-aways from this experience?
I’d say the top three take-aways would be 1) Meeting so many high profile people in the sport of flying disc. I met many guys who are in the disc golf hall of fame, I met the guy who invented disc golf, a guy who played in the first college ultimate game ever and a guy who toured with the Harlem Globetrotters doing freestyle. Meeting them (and interviewing them on video) inspired me to keep doing what I’m doing and actually encouraged me to do even more as I see how happy they are and how much disc sports have given back to them; 2) I learned just how much I love disc. It’s not just about ultimate – it’s about throwing and all of the amazing sports you can do with a disc. Because the disc is connected to your hand whenever you throw, and the nature of the disc and how it moves through the wind, it’s a sport you can do for your entire life; it doesn’t matter how old you are; and 3) I have developed some friendships that will last a lifetime but I also learned more about myself than I expected. Since I drove there and back, I had a lot of time to think about my trip. On the way down all I could think about was the competition and what I was going to expect and on the way back all I could think about was how excited I was to get home and keep playing disc sports.
6) Which was your favourite event and why?
My favourite event. That’s a tough one as I love distance, self caught flight and disc golf but for me, I’d say that it would have to be self caught flight. Seeing the disc go as high as it does, turn just the right amount and then flatten out as you’re running to catch it is an incredible thing to feel and see. And I love when the other competitors get pumped when I put up a good throw and cheer me on as I chase down the disc.
7) Which was the most challenging event and why?
For me, the most challenging event was freestyle since I had never done it before. But really since I only had 2 minutes, it was over quickly. So really, the most challenging event would had to have been Double Disc Court since I had also never played it before so to play against guys who were World Champions and had been playing it for 30+ years, it was a struggle for me to just try and keep up since I’m so competitive. I learned really quickly and at the end, my partner and I had won a few games. The toughest part was learned how to throw the disc since it’s much lighter and smaller than an ultimate disc and also learning the approach to the game. But I know it much better now and just played DDC last week and I am not bad at it now.
8) Who was the most inspiring athlete there and why?
There were a few really inspiring athletes – guys who have won an incredible amount of championships – worlds in ultimate, freestyle, guts, DDC, disc golf, Overalls, distance, etc…but the most inspiring athlete was Dan “Stork” Roddick. He is a legend in all definitions of the word and to see how everyone else looked up to him, I couldn’t help but be in awe of what he’s accomplished and how he is still competitive even after 40+ years of playing disc. He wrote Spirit of the Game, he played in the first college ultimate game ever, he worked with Wham-O and helped developed their frisbee division, he is still involved at the highest level and the head of USA Ultimate, WFDF, the PDGA and the other organizations all look up to him. He is truly an incredible person for what he’s done for the sport of flying disc.
9) You were close to a medal…. does that mean you’re going back to compete again?
Absolutely I will be competing again. I would like to compete in all of the Overall championships and my goal is for sure to win the overall title. It will be tough as I will have to get better at the events I’m weak in – accuracy, freestyle and DDC but having come so close to a medal in my first competition only fires me up more and makes me want to work that much harder to achieve that.
10) Short-term, what’s next on the agenda?
Short-term, I have a few disc golf tournaments coming up and I’m also going to be competing in 2 world championships for dog disc – one is in Chattanooga, TN in a few weeks and the other is in Parkersville, GA in October. The events I will be competing in are the Toss and Fetch and Extreme Distance and I will be competing with my friend’s Whippet, Davy. I’m also organizing a disc sports demo on Sept 11 where I will be having disc golf, ultimate, dog freestyle, dog toss and fetch, distance, self caught flight, guts and DDC. I want to showcase the sports and demo them to the public and then let people try the sports out afterwards. I also want the different organizations to meet each other so we can promote the sport of flying disc across all platforms.