Female ultimate player takes on male-dominated division at world championships

After playing competitively on women's teams and co-ed teams for the last 10 years, this spring the 37-year-old made the masters open team from Winnipeg that's set to represent the Canadian prairies at worlds - which women rarely try out for.

Winnipeg's Candace Obirek likely to be the only woman in the World Masters' open division

Winnipeg ultimate player Candace Obirek is likely to be the only woman playing in the 2018 World Masters Ultimate Club Championships' open category when the tournament comes to Winnipeg this summer. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

Candace Obirek is going to stand out when the world's best ultimate players gather in Winnipeg for the 2018 World Masters Ultimate Club Championships later this summer.

That's because Obirek is likely to be the only woman playing in a division dominated by men.

"I'm constantly looking for other females on other teams, but nope, it's only me," Obirek told CBC News ahead of the world championships, which come to Winnipeg July 29- Aug 4.

After playing competitively on women's teams and co-ed teams for the last 10 years, this spring the 37-year-old made the grand masters open team from Winnipeg that's set to represent the Canadian prairies at the world championships.

While the teams are open to both genders, women rarely try out for the squads, says Obirek.

Candace Obirek, 37, tried out for and made the Winnipeg-based Grand Masters of the Universe ultimate team this spring. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

"Typically women just play with women or in co-ed," she explained, adding the category is leftover from an era when not as many women played the game.

"When ultimate started in the '80s, there weren't enough women to develop women's teams, so they just let women play on these open teams and that's kind of carried through."

In co-ed play teams are required to have a certain number of each gender on the field at a time, while those rules don't apply in the open category.

Obirek, who decided to try out for the Winnipeg-based Grand Masters of the Universe team after being encouraged by a few of the team's players last fall, says there's differences in how the game is played in the open category.

"These men are very elite and the competition is much faster and higher than any league I've played in before," she said.

"I'm very happy and proud of myself for being able to compete with guys."

Tim O'Toole, one of the captains of the Grand Masters of the Universe ultimate team, says Obirek's hard work led to her making the otherwise all-male team. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

Tim O'Toole is one of the captains of the Grand Masters of the Universe and says Obirek's play made her an easy pick for the team.

Of the 50 players that tried out for the 28-player team, Obirek was the only woman.

"She worked hard, she was consistent, and she practised and put in the effort," he said.

"We basically looked at the pool of players that we had and we made a decision early on in the season that we were going to pick the players that gave us the best opportunity to win.

"And she was one of those players."

The World Masters Ultimate Club Championships will see around 750 players from 13 different countries coming to Winnipeg to compete in women's, men's, co-ed, and open categories.

The masters designation means male players have to be 40 and over, and women 37 and over.

Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports operations director Corey Draper says the World Masters Ultimate Club Championships will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some Winnipeg ultimate players. (Shane Gibson/CBC)

"There's going to be lots of chances to see different teams and different styles of play," said Corey Draper, operations director for the Manitoba Organization of Disc Sports (MODS), which is hosting the games in partnership with the World Flying Disc Federation.

"It's prestigious because you have teams coming from other countries and some really top talent coming from the United States and that's where the best teams in the world are.

"For some people it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

The games are open to the public and will be played at Little Mountain Sportsplex throughout the week with the finals scheduled for Investors Group Field Aug. 4.