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Your faculty and staff news since 1965
October 18, 2004
Volume 40, Number 3

Ohls brings home gold
in beach ultimate Frisbee


By Carolyn Gonzales

Neonatologist Robin Ohls has been on faculty in the Health Sciences Center’s Department of Pediatrics since 1995. When not teaching new doctors or looking after the hospital’s tiniest patients, she plays competitive team Frisbee.

A competitor since her undergraduate days at Stanford, Ohls, in August, captained the USA women’s team that captured a gold medal in beach ultimate Frisbee at the World Championships 5-on-5 Beach Ultimate in Figueira da Foz, Portugal. A total of 22 countries participated in four divisions: Women, Men, Co-ed (3/2) and Open Masters.

The game can be played on grass or sand, Ohls said, noting this competition was on sand. A regulation ultimate disc weighs 175 grams and each tournament has its own – brightly colored for beach play and white when on grass.

The game carries rules borrowed from other sports. To score, a player has to catch in the end zone, much like football. Players cannot run with the disc, and as in basketball, the player holding the disc has to establish a pivot foot. The player has 10 seconds to throw the disc.

“Like soccer, the offense can quickly change to defense with a change of possession,” Ohls said.

Players do take positions on the field. “‘Handlers’ tend to catch and throw the disc a lot, while ‘longs’ are best at catching a long throw down the field,” she explained.

One thing that sets beach ultimate Frisbee apart from most any sport is the absence of umpires, referees or judges of any kind. “It is up to the player to call his or her own violations and state whether or not the disc was caught in bounds or out,” Ohls explained. She said that disputes are settled on the field.

“Respecting one another and upholding the spirit of the game is the rule,” Ohls said. She said that the game is gaining popularity in secondary schools in Albuquerque and that UNM has both a men’s and women’s ultimate team.

“Because the colleges’ competitive season is in the spring, they can play for other teams in the fall,” she said.

Although ultimate isn’t always timed, because of the number of teams participating in the World Championships, the games were 40 minutes long.

Team USA was beaten by the German team twice before in pool play. “We beat them the third time in pool play. In the finals, our fourth meeting, we wore them out. I think we were in better shape. It was exciting to see we had come together as a team,” Ohls said.

The final play occurred when Ohls recovered a dropped disc and threw a forehand into the end zone where teammate Margolit Gould caught it.

What made capturing the gold even more remarkable is that the women, who range in age from 20-43, had not played together in championship competition before. Her teammates were from Florida, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Oregon, New York, Washington D.C., and California.

Ohls said that they hope to see ultimate Frisbee become a demonstration sport in the next Olympics, in Beijing, China, 2008.