ALL SMILES, AS HANDBALL RETURNS TO THE BEACHES OF PUERTO RICO
With the COVID-19 pandemic pausing all handball activities in Puerto Rico, it was a difficult year for handball in the Caribbean country.
Yet, this did not deter the Puerto Rican beach handball team, who have big ambitions, including qualifying for the first time for an IHF Beach Handball World Championship in 2022, after the ninth edition of the competition, originally scheduled to be staged in Pescara, Italy in 2020, was cancelled.
For the first time in the last year, beach handball is now back in Puerto Rico, as the Women’s Under-18 team went back to training in Aguada, under the guidance of coach Abdiel Acevedo.
“It is a beautiful feeling, a unique experience, because the last year was lost. Coming back on the beach to train and play, it brings beautiful feelings. Players have come back stronger than before. The smiles on their faces was priceless and it was clear from the start that they want to play,” said Abdiel Acevedo to ihf.info.
Beach handball was unknown to Puerto Ricans until 2016, but under the guidance of Acevedo it has made sturdy steps. It is still not as popular as in many other countries, yet the newfound passion can drive things further in the years to come.
Training centres have been developed throughout the Caribbean island and players are enrolling to find out the secrets of the sport. The senior teams have still not been cleared to train, but young players are now back to training.
In such difficult times, beach handball has been a safe haven for many, with the quality of the training sessions held last week having improved on a day-by-day basis.
“I think these training sessions and beach handball in general helped a lot in terms of our mental health. Being able to play something that I am very passionate about is surely a big plus,” said Cyolimar Ortiz Marin, one of the players in the Puerto Rican women’s U18 beach handball team.
Like in many other countries, beach handball runs in the family, therefore it was easy for Natasha Valle Martinez to take it up.
“My father is a beach handball coach and I started paying attention to what he was doing and it really caught my eye. I like the beach, of course, so it just went from there. This sport is a team sport, which motivates me to help and share in practices and games with my teammates,” said the Puerto Rican player.
As for objectives, Acevedo is clear. Inspite of local championships still not being able to be played due to the current restrictions in place, Puerto Rico are still aiming high.
In the next weeks, the men’s and the women’s senior national teams will meet in Aguada to start their preparations. The aim is to progress to the IHF Beach Handball World Championship for the first time, with Acevedo and his staff looking to find the top 15 players in the country.
“We have aimed high, but we eye a place in the World Championship. It might be tough, but we are ambitious,” concluded Acevedo.
As for the Puerto Rican U18 teams, the aim is clear and still high: a place at the IHF U17 Beach Handball World Championship next year, which would be another first for Puerto Rican beach handball.
For more information about the Puerto Rican Handball Federation, visit their official website.