IHF Youth World Beach Handball Championship Starts Today
by Moa Svendsen
The IHF Men's and Women's World Beach Handball Championships will begin today in Heraklion, Greece, as 32 of the world's best youth beach handball teams arrive, including the US. There will be unlimited action and games played for six days straight between the 14 – 19th of June.
Team USA men's youth national team participates for the first time in the second edition of the Men's and Women's Youth (U18) Beach Handball World Championships. "We have been practicing one or two times a week since January, at different places at times, and with different people," Said head Coach Martin Bilello. The team has focused on preparing the players to be able to compete at a higher level by combining camps with the senior team.
As for the team, there are nine players in the lineup, whereas three new additions. "We lost four players from the list due to different circumstances, and three new players were able to step up and help us round up a roster to compete at this tournament. We had to change goalkeeper and lost AJ, our captain, to injury." Said Coach Bilello. Earlier this year, AJ Bulow was honored with the MVP title and Best Left-Wing at the USATH Youth Nationals. Bulow was also supposed to be the team captain at the championship this coming week but will have to stay out.
One of the players on the team at the World Beach Handball Championship is Ian Hodgson. Hodgson is the California Youth league's top scorer and a solid addition to the team. Hodgson will be representing the US for the first time, which he is very excited about. "I am most excited to represent the US in such a big tournament. I'm excited to be traveling to Greece - it looks like an amazing place to host the tournament. I'm also looking forward to competing against other countries." Since this will be the first time for the USA beach youth team to play in a big championship, it will be the first time for all players on the team. "This is the first big tournament for all of us, and we just recently started playing beach handball. We have never gotten to play against these other countries," Said Ian Hodgson.
The primary goal for the USA team at the IHF Men's and Women's World Beach Handball Championships will be to compete at every game and find out how well the team matches up with the best in the world. "We are going to enjoy the experience; after all, how many times do you get to be playing your favorite game on a Greek island in the Mediterranean?" Said Coach Bilello.
Spain is the last edition of the IHF Men's World Beach Handball Championships titleholder and is one of the 16 returning teams to the competition. There are going to be some interesting games at this championship. Team USA is not looking at any team in particular but expect each game and each set to be as competitive as possible, according to coach Bilello. Along with Spain, Togo and Argentina are also returning from the competition in 2017. Spain is the last winner of the Youth Olympic Games and one of the favorites to win the gold even in this championship.
On the women's side, three of the medal winners from 2017 will compete in Heraklion: 2017, silver medalists the Netherlands, and third-placed Argentina, along with Spain and Thailand, who placed fifth and sixth, will be there. The remaining 11 teams are debutants.