Robert "Nob" Rauch and IOC President Thomas Bach. WFDF

WFDF President, American Robert "Nob" Rauch, sat down for an exclusive interview with InsideTheGames to talk about the success of 2023 and his future goals, including being an Olympian at the 2032 Olympic Games in Brisbane. 

Regarding the impact of the pandemic on the organisation of the events, he was very pleased with what they had achieved after the global restriction due to Covid: "We feel we have fully recovered from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with our eight WFDF events in 2023, both World and Continental Championships."

On how the pandemic affected the organisation of the events he was very pleased with what they accomplished after the global confinement due to Covid, "We feel fully recovered from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with our eight WFDF events in 2023, both World and Continental Championships." 

The most important thing that "Nob", as he is affectionately called by everyone in the organization, has highlighted is in terms of the number of players and participants in general in the 8 international tournaments this year. "Our Under 24 Ultimate World Championships were held in Nottingham, GBR, from 2-8 July had 1,019 players, 1,450 participants, 22 countries, 45 teams and three divisions.

The Asian Oceanic Ultimate and Guts Championships were held in Manila, Philippines, from 6-10 September, with 1,009 players, 1,325 participants, 15 countries, 44 ultimate teams, five guts teams, five divisions: O/W/Mx/MxM/Guts."

WFDF President Robert
WFDF President Robert "Nob" Rauch, at the Asia Conference. WFDF

He also highlighted the achievement of hosting the first WFDF World Wheelchair Ultimate Championships in Northern Italy, in the town of Lignano Sabbiadoro in the province of Venice, from 28 September to 1 October. This event had 35 players, 55 participants, and four teams (two from Italy, one from Germany and one international with its core group from Japan). 

He also noted the globalisation of the sport and the wide range of events in all parts of the world, from Africa to the United States of America on the coast of California last November. He was proud to have successfully organised the Pan-African Ultimate Championships held in Kisumu, Kenya, from 13 to 16 October, with 105 players, 130 participants, seven countries (Burundi, Comoros, Kenya, Uganda), and a Pan-African team (Tanzania, Madagascar, Rwanda), 11 teams, one division (mixed), quite an achievement in the most economically neglected continent in the world.

A little further back in time, two important tournaments took place in America. The WFDF Beach Ultimate World Championships were held in Huntington, United States, from 1-5 November, with 721 players, 870 participants, 16 countries, 45 teams, six divisions: O/W/Mx/MxM/GMO and Int Mx Clubs, as well as The Pan American Disc Golf Team Championships were held in Warrenville, United States, from 10-12 November, with 22 players, 45 participants, three countries (Canada, Colombia, Unites Estates), three teams, one division (mixed).

The Pan American Ultimate Championships were held in Punta Cana at the end of last November with 1,836 players, 2,150 participants, 12 countries, 84 teams, six divisions (O/W/Mx/MxO/MxW/MxM/GMO). 

This very diverserange of 2023 events around the world will end with the last event of the year to be held in Taipei City (Taiwan) with the Asian Oceanic Team Disc Golf Championships in Taipei City, from 30 December to 2 January 2024, with 43 players, 75 participants, five countries (Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Thialand and China Taipei), five teams, one division (mixed). 

When asked about what was the organisation's greatest achievements has been, he answered without hesitation that the extensive and successful 2023 event schedule was the most important achievement of the year.

Robert "Nob" Rauch, at the Life Sports Conference 2023. WFDF

What were the highlights of 2023 for your organisation, apart from the busy calendar?

From an administrative point of view, there have been several highlights. The number of members increased from 103 to 107 National Federations, with the addition of Saudi Arabia, Ecuador, Monaco and Mongolia in 2023. We held successful elections in two of our continental federations, maintaining strong leadership in Africa and Pan America.  Flying Disc swept both categories of the World Games in the year-end competitions, winning the titles of both Athlete of the Year and Team of the Year with Valeria Cardenas of Colombia and Team Germany after a month of fan voting.

How is the strategic plan?

Our strategic plan has been completed and updated for 2023-2028. The theme of our plan is the transition to "WFDF 3.0". This requires the sport of Flying Disc to be supported by a robust global organisation that can provide adequate support to member national federations, host world class championship events, promote and grow the sport at the youth and grassroots level, and raise the visibility of its disciplines to a level close to many of the globally recognised Olympic sports. Key areas for development are event management, membership support, IT and communications. The revenue model will need to expand and grow to support all of this. Long-term planning is required, particularly in the area of youth development, to increase participation at the broadest level. And the sport of Frisbee needs to increase its level of visibility both within our community and, even more importantly, to the general sporting public around the world."

What are your goals for 2024 and beyond?

Firstly, we want to have another busy and successful season of events.  We plan to host:

- Asian-Oceanic Beach Ultimate Championships, Shirahama, Japan (12-16 June).

- World Junior Ultimate Championships, Birmingham, Great Britain (12-27 July).

- World Ultimate Championships, Gold Coast, Australia (31 August-7 September).

- World Guts Championships, Gold Coast, Australia (2-7 September).

- World Team Disc Golf Championships, Mundaring, Perth, Autsralia (6-9 November).

- World Ultimate Masters Championships, Irvine, United States (9-16 November).

- European Beach Ultimate Championships, Maluarossa Beach, Spain (26 November-1 December).

He also noted that the Australian Ultimate and Disc Golf competitions will serve as qualifiers for the 2025 World Games.

Rauch received The World Games Athlete of the Year Award on behalf of Valeria Cardenas of Colombia. WFDF
Rauch received The World Games Athlete of the Year Award on behalf of Valeria Cardenas of Colombia. WFDF

On the strictly administrative side and the growth of the WFDF?

We would like to welcome at least five new member countries, bringing the total number of FN members to 112 by the end of the year. We also want to help several members gain recognition from their National Olympic Committees and that of at least one of the Continental Olympic Federations. We also want to see the sport of Frisbee accepted to participate in one of the Continental Olympic Games. To support these objectives, we intend to recruit three additional staff members early in the year: a Director of Member Services and Sport Development, a Director of Communications and Social Media, and an Administrative Assistant/Office Manager.

Finally, he made no secret of the camaraderie and the spirit of the sport that is so much in evidence when asked about the possibility of ever making it to the Olympic Games, even if it is to start as an exhibition sport.

Is inclusion in the Olympic Games (even as an exhibition sport) a distant dream or are there opportunities in the short term? 

We have highlighted the pursuit of inclusion in the Olympic Programme in our strategic plan, with a specific target of Brisbane 2032. We believe that Flying Disc is an ideal candidate to be considered for consideration for inclusion in the programme as a designated host city, given our youth appeal, gender equality, exciting format, universality and the principle of fair play embodied in our 'spirit of the game'. We do not see it as a goal in itself, but as an important part of our holistic development approach. We want to encourage participation and vision for the sport of Frisbee at all levels, from grassroots participation as a recreational activity to the highest levels of elite competition, for both men and women and in mixed gender competition.  

The wide-ranging and entertaining interview culminated in the importance of becoming an Olympian for the future of flying disc: "Participation in the Olympics will provide the visibility and credibility to support our goals and help us grow our sport.