Argentina youth ready to establish themselves on the global beach handball stage
10 Jun. 2020
A long-term focus of the IHF has been and continues to be the development of beach handball. For some years, the IHF has been targeting the inclusion of the beach discipline on the Olympic agenda and the effort was rewarded when the sport was played for the first time at an Olympic event in 2018 – at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
In February this year, the IHF submitted a formal request to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include beach handball in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. First however, beach handball will again be a part of the 2022 Youth Olympic Games in Dakar.
After Argentina’s women won gold and their men won bronze in front of their home fans at Buenos Aires 2018, they are already looking to replicate those exceptional performances at Dakar 2022.
The South American country started a Dakar 2022 talent identification programme in April 2019, with the first team camp taking place from 11 to 14 December.
Five teams (three women’s, two men’s) consisting of those players selected, competed in the tournaments with the Metropolitan Beach Handball League, the first official competition for the Dakar 2022 teams. The league ran for six consecutive Saturdays before concluding on 15 February.
Ahead of the conclusion of the league, in early February the second national teams’ training camp took place under the title ‘Dakar Project 2022’.
Organised at the national high-performance centre, ‘Ente Nacional de Alto Desssarrollo Deportivo’ (CeNARD), in association with the Argentina Handball Confederation (CAH), the Argentine Olympic Committee and the Secretariat of Sports of the Nation, it brought together players and coaches from all over the country.
From 29 January to 2 February more than 40 boys and girls trained under the supervision of Leticia Brunati, national technical coordinator and gold medal-winning coach at Buenos Aires 2018.
The aim of the camp was to create the youth national teams which will compete in the South and Central American qualification event for the 2021 IHF Men’s and Women’s U17 Beach Handball World Championships in Portugal and the 2021 South American Youth Games.
“We are in a stage of development, learning and evaluation,” said Brunati to the CAH website. “The qualification for Portugal 2021 will be our first international commitment and then in March 2021 the South American Youth Games will arrive in Rosario and we will look for a medal at home again.”
Later in the month, from 18 to 25 February, Brazilian men’s national team coach Antonio Peixe – who won the most recent IHF Men’s Beach Handball World Championship title, in Kazan in July 2018 – returned to Argentina after working with CAH ahead of Buenos Aires 2018.
Peixe was part of the ‘Campus 2020’ event, also held at CeNARD, which saw future talents from all sports, including beach handball, in attendance.
Nearly 500 athletes, considered to be those with the best chance of appearing for Argentina at Dakar 2022, were in attendance, with 48 beach handball players being part of the group.
The event focused on the three pillars of sports, education and physical/medical evaluation, with players receiving guidance from regional coaches in addition to input from Brunati, Peixe and the Argentina coaching staff.
However, one of the big highlights for the beach handball athletes was when Olympic Gold medallist Caterina Benedetti shared her experience of winning on home sand at Buenos Aires 2018 with the group. She was later joined by fellow medallists, Fiorella Corimberto, Zoe Turnes, Gisella Bonomi and Lucila Balsas, as they put the new athletes through training sessions.
The five-day event also saw video sessions and talks provided by specialists such as head of beach handball referees in Argentina, Lorena Mac Coll, who worked on the regulations of the sport. Mac Coll, who whistled at Buenos Aires 2018 and who undertook the Olympic oath on behalf of all officials and referees in Buenos Aires on the main stage in front of an estimated 200,000 people.
“After the 2018 Youth Olympic Games the sport has received wide acceptance throughout not only the Argentina sports community, but the general public,” said Mac Coll.
“Where the sport took place – Parque Sarmiento – was the principal location of the Metropolitan Beach Handball League, which shows you the lasting legacy of the YOG for this sport in Argentina.”
PHOTO: Argentina Handball Confederation