Long before the current wave of Euro-Shredders were pushing the sport of Freestyle to new and unforeseen heights, there was a visionary from the land of the north. He can now be rightfully recognized as the Godfather of Euro Jamming. Jan Ekman from Stockholm Sweden entered his first tournament as a Junior with team mate Peter Janson. He won. And he kept on winning. He very nearly won every single time he entered a tournament in Europe from 1978 to 1992. In an effort to improve his game, he and his wife Nina went to the USA in 1993 for an extended stay. While in the USA he lived in San Diego where he absorbed as much as he could from that fertile scene. Then he took his game to the FPA Worlds in Seattle of 1993 and won both the Co-op (with Larry Imperiale and Ted Oberhaus) and Mixed (with Gina Sample). Those two wins gave him the player of the year honors and cemented his reputation as a player of unmatched success.
Starting in 1978, Jan Ekman’s obsession with Freestyle disc play began. His initial inspiration was playing as a junior player. He went on to win that very first tournament. After that he couldn’t get enough of it. The freestyle scene in Europe was not very sophisticated at that time so Jan’s efforts proved fruitful in inspiring others to play and to push their own games. In 1979 he attended the Rose Bowl World Championships for the first time. In 1980 he returned with partner Peter Jansson and made it to the semi-finals. Being in the USA and attending those tournaments gave Jan the opportunity to see the elite players at the top of their respective games. When he returned home he had a wealth of information and moves to share with his fellow Euro jammers. Keep in mind that this was the pre-video and pre-youtube era. If you did not see state of the art Freestyle, you had few opportunities to view it. So Jan learning the new hot moves and bringing them back to Europe made him a most influential freestyler. Combine that with his unique ability and athleticism, it was clear that he was the player to emulate. His influence throughout European Freestyle cannot be overstated. That influence was simply everywhere. Overtime Jan logged more than 200 Demos all across Europe and became the highest profile player of that era, influencing people like Clay Collera, Petri Isola, Joakim Arveskar, Stefan Karlsson, Tomas Finboroud, Sune Wentzel and Torsten Gohrke. Having Donnie Rhodes spending time in Sweden and being able to play with him on a regular basis also helped elevate Jan’s game to a whole new level.
Jan kept playing and elevating his game, winning almost every European Freestyle tournament he attended. In 1993, he and his wife Nina took an extended vacation and visited. They lived in San Diego where Jan could immerse himself into that scene. This once again elevated his game to a new level. At the 1993 FPA World Championships in Seattle, WA he won Co-op (with Larry Imperiale and Ted Oberhaus) as well as Mixed (with Gina Sample). Taking those two major titles also yielded the FPA Skippy Sez Player of the Year award. This solidified Jan’s status as one of the most important Freestylers of all time.
Comments from Mikael Hjärtsjö, Founder of Swedish Frisbee Association and FDHOF 2016 Inductee
“Freestyle seemed to come natural to him and I know he was the first in Swedish Freestyle that started to, not just talking about it, but actually incorporating dance moves into his routines. He took dance classes and learned about what he could take from that into his routines.
I know Jan Ekman was a great admirer of Donnie Rhodes style in the early 80s and he also played an important part in continuing the tradition of bringing US players over to Sweden. After the V-bros, Corey Basso and Evan David in the 70s it was obvious that Donnie and Jeff Felberbaum would follow in the 80s, much thanks to Jan Ekman.
He fine-tuned his fluent style and became a major influence on many Swedish Freestylers who would also abandon individual events in order to focus on developing their individual style. Further down the road (or field) he also found international partners to team up with and the titles he won in the late 80s and early 90s proof that focus and all-in dedication will take you a long way. It certainly did for Jan Ekman.”