36-0: The Road to Gold

Posted: August 7, 2013 11:46 AM


United States national teams went an amazing 36-0 across four squads over the course of eight days at the end of July. The best American ultimate athletes under the age of 23 travelled to Toronto and the WFDF World Under-23 Ultimate Championships as three teams – open, women’s and mixed – and one delegation. As they were finishing their quests for gold, 13 elite athletes headed to the World Games in Cali, Colombia to try and claim an American gold of their own.

Though each team was tested at times, the depth and mental toughness that so often characterizes ultimate programs in the United States came through on every occasion.

Over the years, worldwide competition has gotten stronger. As the birthplace of the sport, the United States could easily be deemed to have an edge – the time it takes to introduce and grow the sport, more history and experience to fall back on, and the sheer number of people playing ultimate in the U.S. But none of the four national teams representing the country this summer took their competition for granted.

The U-23 women’s team fought to a universe-point victory over Japan in pool play. The U-23 mixed team found themselves in a similar situation against Canada, in what ended up as a 17-16 win for the United States. A loss to Canada in the finals at Poultry Days in June reinforced the World Games team’s commitment to not overlook them in Colombia. The same could be said about Japan, who earned pool play wins over the United States in each of the last two World Games competitions. And in the first World Games Flying Disc competition in 2001, the United States came in second, after losing to Canada in the finals.

Perhaps that was the edge the teams needed – the knowledge that the history books included losses and the idea that they certainly weren’t unbeatable. Whatever it was, this year’s four teams represented the United States incredibly well and added their own chapters to the history books. Chapters that include four gold medals and a spirit award.

To make their experience in Canada even more special, the U-23 mixed team took home an extra set of hardware after winning the team spirit award at the World Championships. 

Now, attention turns toward 2014 and the next two international events awaiting the United States. Next year, U-19 teams will represent the U.S. at the World Junior Ultimate Championships in the open and girls’ divisions and club teams from five divisions will compete at the World Ultimate Club Championships. Even before the rosters are selected or the teams earn their bids, questions abound.

At the last World Junior Ultimate Championships, held in Dublin, Ireland last year, the two U.S. U-19 teams brought home a silver and a gold. Colombia, one of the fastest-growing ultimate countries in the world, defeated the U.S. in the girls’ division finals and claimed the gold medal.

The 2010 World Ultimate Club Championships saw the United States emerge victorious in all four divisions. But more recently, at the 2012 World Ultimate and Guts Championships, titles in the women’s, mixed and open masters divisions went to Japan and Canada.

The ultimate world is quickly getting more competitive. Talent levels are on the rise around the globe, and the United States is working to build and maintain an edge. The performances of the nation’s teams at the U-23 World Championships and World Games last month set the bar even a little higher. And for a nation and athletes so determined to succeed, there is no place to stay but on top.

2013WG final   2013U23champs
The U.S. World Games National team
Photo credit: CBMT Creative
  The U.S. U-23 National teams
Photo credit: CBMT Creative

Food for Thought

Although there aren’t many other sports that can be compared side-by-side with ultimate across the various and often simultaneous levels and divisions that are contested, here are a few other amateur American teams that have owned streaks of 36-0 or more.

USA Men’s Basketball   63-0 in the Olympics from 1936-1972 with eight gold medals (the 1940 and 1944 Summer Olympics were cancelled due to World War II).

Even the Dream Team era of USA Basketball didn’t string together 36 wins. Although they won each game they played, their record from the 1992 Olympics through the 1996 Olympics was 32-0.
USA Women’s Basketball   41-0 and still counting in the Olympic Games with five gold medals, spanning 1996-2012.
USA Softball   Multiple streaks of at least 36-0 across all international competition. Most recently, they went 36-0 from July 4, 2009 – July 24, 2010. They also owned a 68-game win streak between 1986 and 1996.
UCLA Basketball   One of the most iconic win streaks in history, the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team won 88 consecutive games between January 30, 1971 and January 17, 1974, under legendary coach John Wooden.


Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.