High flyer

• Michael Canci nails a “putt” at Dick Lawrence’s frisbee course. Photo by Steve Grant.

A FREMANTLE frisbee fanatic who once held the world distance record has been awarded the sport’s highest national honour.

Michael Canci was earlier this month named winner of the Australian Flying Disc Association’s 2019 Rob Hancock Award, which is named after his old high school phys ed teacher.

Mr Hancock had introduced the gravity-defying plastic disc to Mr Canci and his Tuart Hill high school classmates in 1980, back when most Aussies considered them little more than a beach novelty.

He died unexpectedly four years later, but Mr Hancock had already established flying disc as a genuine sport at the state and national level.

He’d also given Mr Canci an enduring love of the sport, and he practiced virtually every day after school with his Toltoys Wham-O 141 gram World Class disc – which he still owns.

Mr Canci was also becoming involved in the sport’s administration, becoming secretary of the Perth Disc Club while still a high school student and treasurer of the national association by the time he was in uni. He was also helping to run workshops out in the bush for country kids.

“I was a member of the first Australian team to go to the World Ultimate Championships in Belgium in 1988,” Mr Canci told the Herald.

No doubt he’d have been a closely-watched competitor, having broken the world record in Bunbury the year earlier with an incredible 186.83 metre throw with his Lightning P38 disc. Adding to his mystique, he’d smashed through the 600-foot barrier which had previously eluded America’s greatest throwers (for the record, it was 610 feet).

But Mr Canci admits they’d have looked in vain trying to find any secret technique.

“I was a bit self-conscious about the record because it was a bit fluky; the gust of wind was quite out of the ordinary and it was a lot further than I’d normally throw – but it did put WA on the map for a while,” he said.

A year later his mark was pegged by the Americans, and it’s now held by German Simon Lizotte, who reached 263.2 metres on a howling day in the Fall Desert in 2014.

The first local flying disc contests were decathlon-style, with competitors judged over a range of events such as long distance, freestyle tricks or catching your own throw.

Since then it’s split into two camps; disc golf and ultimate, which is a non-contact team sport which combines elements of netball, touch football and gridiron.

Mr Canci spent much of his sporting career playing ultimate, but has recently switched over to disc golf because it’s a little easier on the body.

There’s now 10 disc golf courses around Perth, with one at Dick Lawrence Oval in Beaconsfield and another at McFaull Park in Spearwood.

The ‘holes’ are baskets, with a chain that captures the disc and stops it bouncing away. The Perth Disc Golf club’s next event is today (Saturday October 26) at McFaull Park.

by STEVE GRANT

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