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Date: 5/21/2017
 

The recent IHF U17 Beach Handball World Championship – Men's & Women's Qualification Games saw three nations secure places at the final tournament in Mauritius in July: American Samoa, Australia and New Zealand. Both Australia and New Zealand have represented Oceania on the global stage before, but the successful World Championship qualification for American Samoa’s women’s side is a first for the nation.
 
The tiny territory have already experienced increased interest in beach handball following their success, which American Samoa Handball Association President Carl J. Sagapolutele Floor Sr says is a result of a focus on developing a national team before a pool of athletes and leagues.
 
“Handball is new to our territory and we face many obstacles, the largest being athletes. With such a small population every sport is trying to pull athletes into their programmes. My idea was to focus on a group of elite athletes who would develop a love for the game of handball and win a gold, which we did with our U17 women,” says Sagapolutele Floor Sr.
 
“Since our return more athletes and coaching prospects have been showing up at our National Training Centre, easing the burden of recruitment.”
 
Aside from the increased interest from players and coaches, the Qualification Games win means more opportunities for funding for courts and other vital resources, as the teams currently train on grass. In addition, the success brings handball to prominence as an alternate sport for athletes in a territory where American Football is the dominant sport.
 
As American Samoa’s teams prepare for the first U17 Beach Handball World Championship in July, there is also movement with indoor handball. In June, New Caledonian side Club Patia will visit American Samoa for a collaborative training camp, from which 10 under 20 athletes will be selected for additional training and matches in the French territory in August.
 
In addition, handball at school remains a priority.
 
“School will begin in September and the Department of Education continues to support our version of Handball at School. We currently have 11 elementary schools and three high schools facilitating handball in their PE classes.
 
“With our success we also have more prospects seeking coaching opportunities. ASHA plans on facilitating coaching and refereeing seminars by the year’s end,” concludes Sagapolutele Floor Sr.
 
Photo: Jun Tanlayco

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