Why Anna Nazarov matters to me

As with the post about Surge – longer and more personal than usual . . .

The picture below shows the wall just to the left of my office computer. It is what I see every single morning when I start work. Going around the wall you have Nightlock’s Rachel Habbert, Molly Brown’s Megan Cousins, the 2015 All-Stars, Nancy Sun receiving the Kathy Pufahl award from Suzanne Fields, Riot’s Calise Cardenas, and in the middle is Anna Nazarov:

I’ve been rooting for Anna to get gold at the World Games since 2013. Hopefully I’ll make a good Dread Pirate Roberts because I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself now. But with so many thoughts about what to write running around my head since the US got the gold I finally settled down a bit and started thinking about why this all mattered to me so much.

Writing about Surge yesterday got me thinking about the 2013 US Open and the brutal combination of practice with the US Team and competition with their club teams that the players faced.

Then I remembered a play that Anna made in the finals of the tournament which by happy coincidence happened right in front of me. By even happier coincidence Ultiphotos still had the picture available for purchase – hello 4 future hall of famers!!

Anna

What the picture doesn’t show is that this catch was impossible. I don’t remember if Opi saw the lane first, or Anna zigged when Alex thought she was going to zag, but when this pass went up there was no chance in the world that Anna was going to get it. None.

And she did. 4+ years later I think that was my “wow” moment watching Anna play – the moment that I realized that she wasn’t just a great player, she was once in a generation special.

A few weeks after the US Open Anna found out that she didn’t make the final cut for the World Games in Colombia. The article she wrote about getting cut is one of the most moving and most personally influential things that I’ve ever read:

Getting Cut

Following the publication of that article came one of the most amazing 4 years of ultimate that anyone has ever played. The drive and determination to work and improve and lead the way in the sport was like nothing that I’ve ever seen before.

This throw is from the gold medal match with the US team at 2015 Beach Worlds in which the US won the gold:

This block is from the 2016 WFDF Worlds in which the US won the gold:

Watching her take the starting line in that game with Rohre Titcomb and Jenny Fey as teammates was a very special moment for me:

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-6-49-12-pm

Here’s a block in the 2016 US club semifinals against Riot at the exact moment that Fury absolutely needed a play:

and here she is once again taking the starting line – this time with the 2017 World Games team in the final against Colombia. Her pass to Carolyn Finney starts the US moving down the field and leads to a terrific opening score for the US:

I’ve already written about Anna’s D away from the disc in the final, too:

Anna1

So that’s 3 world championships in 4 years. In those games she’s – throwing brilliant hucks for goals, getting blocks in the cup, running Team USA’s O as the center handler, getting layout blocks on downfield cutters, and shutting of downfield cuts from the far side of the field. Basically anything that needed to be done on either side of the disc anywhere on the field, all while being guarded by the toughest defenders on O and taking some of the most difficult matches on D.

But it wasn’t just world and national championship competitions. Anna has given back so much to the sport through playing, promoting, clinics, and coaching the UC Berkeley B team. Here’s a nice little goal against the All-Stars in 2016 to represent all of that work (and even in an exhibition game you can see the quality – watch this video a few times to see where she is at the start!):

The reason that this post is so long is that I don’t have the right words. What Anna has done over the last 4 years is almost incomprehensible to me. I don’t know how she could have asked more of herself on or off the field or how she could have possibly given back more to the sport.

The journey from the “getting cut” article to the 2017 World Games gold medal game is one of the most amazing and inspiring athletic journeys that I’ve ever witnessed. It is an absolute privilege to be able to watch her play ultimate, and I am so happy to be around a sport that attracts people like her to it.

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