Sports

Ultimate star joins fellow Barrie native Connor Armstrong on national team

By Stephen Sweet, Special to Postmedia Network

Barrie native Jason Duiella makes a leaping grab during ultimate competition. He was recently named to Canada’s national team, which will travel to Australia in January for the World Flying Disc Federation’s world under-24 championship. SUBMITTED

Barrie native Jason Duiella makes a leaping grab during ultimate competition. He was recently named to Canada’s national team, which will travel to Australia in January for the World Flying Disc Federation’s world under-24 championship. SUBMITTED

Jason Duiella had a dream of wearing the red and white.

The talented athlete from Barrie grew up wanting to represent Canada on the international stage, and now he’s got his chance.

Duiella was selected to the Canadian national team for next January’s World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) World U24 Ultimate Championships in Perth, Australia.

“The tryout went great in Montreal,” said Duiella, who participated in the selection camp last month. “There was a lot of great talent there, so it was interesting to see how my skill matched up compared to the whole east end here.

“There’s a ton of good athletes out there, so I’m just super thankful that I stood out enough to be able to crack the roster.”

Duiella picked up ultimate on a late spring day in Grade 8 while attending Algonquin Ridge Elementary.

Since then, there’s been no stopping him.

“I started playing just at the end of elementary school, when one of my teachers showed me the game,” Duiella said. “I was fortunate to be able to play it all the way through high school at Innisdale, and then was able to keep it going in university, where I had some good exposure to the game and was really able to improve over the years.”

But his desire to participate on an international stage came about seven years ago.

“When I was watching the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, just seeing the magnitude of competing on the world stage for the Canadian athletes, I really wanted to be in their role,” Duiella said. “I said to my dad, ‘I need a gold medal’.

“Unfortunately, ultimate hasn’t made it to the Olympics yet, but I’ve always been fascinated with the world stage and magnitude of sports,” he added.

Duiella tried out for the national open (under-24) team previously, but didn’t make the squad.

Entering his final year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Duiella knew this was his last chance.

“I had to make it or my dream would slip,” Duiella said. “This was my last shot, so I was training extra hard and pumped that I could make it.”

Duiella will get to join a handful of his teammates from Queen’s on the squad, as well as a familiar face.

“I also had my old friend from elementary school and high school, Connor Armstrong, who had made the team last year, and now we’ve both made it this year, so it’s really cool,” Duiella said.

After the pair won an OFSAA title for Innisdale, they went their separate ways to universities, and ultimately, to the pro game, where Armstrong plays for Toronto and Duiella suits up with Ottawa.

But Duiella thinks that reconnecting with his old teammate on the field shouldn’t be that hard.

“It’s going to be really cool,” Duiella said. “Playing together when we were super young in elementary school and then high school, I hope our chemistry will still be there. Hopefully, we can get something going on Team Canada.

“It’s just going to be awesome to be out there with someone who I have that good of a relationship with already, and hopefully, we’ll be able to use what we have to our advantage.”

Although the world championships are still six months away, Duiella has plenty of opportunity in between to work on his game.

“Ottawa is doing a great job of keeping me in shape with games and practices and it’s allowing me to improve and learn from all of the older guys,” Duiella said. “I’ll have another full season in university and I’ll try to improve on things that may be weaker parts in my game.

“With Team Canada, there’s a few pre-championship tournaments, so there’s a real opportunity to work on my game,” added Duiella, whose highlight showed up on the American Ultimate Disc League (AUDL) plays of the week just a few days ago. “I’m really excited to take every opportunity now that I know I made the team and can just showcase my talent.”

Duiella is excited at the prospect of taking on ultimate players from around the world.

“It was really cool to hear some of the stories from the guys at past championships, and it’s definitely going to be a journey to get there, but I’m expecting to meet so many cool people and it’s going to be really cool to have something in common with all of these people from all around the world,” Duiella said. “As well, it will be world-class talent there and it’ll be amazing to compete with these guys.

“It’s going to be very exciting, and interesting, and intense, and yeah, it’s going to be awesome.”

And at the forefront for Team Canada in January will be a couple of kids that went to Algonquin Ridge and Innisdale together.

“It’s really interesting to see where we’ve come from,” said Duiella of he and Armstrong. “It’s a pretty small town, and it’s cool to see how we’ve gone through high school together, and going through university and even playing a game of pro together, it’s cool to see how we’ve been on this journey side by side.

“It’ll be great to be out there with him and hopefully, some of our chemistry is still there and we can make each other proud out there.”

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