The 2017 World Games are underway in Wroclaw, Poland and the Australian Women's Beach Handball team are about to begin their campaign. In the lead-up to the games we had a chat to one of the stars of the team, Vanja Smiljanić, about the Aussie Beach Gliders' preparations.
(Vanja Smiljanić in action for the Aussie Beach Gliders)
For the uninitiated, what is beach handball?
Beach handball is a sport played on the sand where the aim is to throw a ball past the defence and goalkeeper into the goal. There are 2 x 10 minute halves and the game is scored by sets rather than a total score. If at the end of the second half the teams are at one set each, the game goes to a penalty shootout.
The field is 27m long x 12m wide including a 6m goalkeeper area at each end. You can take a maximum of three steps and then either pass, shoot or roll the ball before taking another three steps and then passing or shooting. Double points apply when a 'spectacular' shot is taken such as a 360 degree turn in the air or an alley-oop shot, or when the goalkeeper scores a goal.
The other differences from indoor handball is that it has less players on the field at once and it's classified as a non contact sport where players attempt to dive block and intercept the ball, as opposed to legally foul the players. You could say its like playing water polo on sand?
How have the preparations been going?
Preparations have been going well. All the girls are working hard in their states, hitting the sand as much as possible, even in the cold. We've met once a month since the start of the year as a full Australian squad and had intense training camps for 8hrs of training over the weekend.
Individually we have been working on plyometric movement and shot accuracy and as a team we have been strategising for both defence and attack.
Will you be playing any warm-up matches in the lead-up to the Games?
Yes, we will start our preparations on the 14th July by playing a lead up tournament in Munich, followed by a tournament and training camp in the Netherlands before heading to Wroclaw, Poland and competing at the World games.
What is the format of the tournament?
Two pools of four teams. With a quarterfinal crossover style where 1A vs 4B, 2A vs 3B etc. Then semifinals or placement matches.
The World Games has a lower number of teams than the world championships, teams have needed to qualify through world championships or continental tournaments to get there.
What are Australia’s chances?
Fairly good, we have beaten three of the eight teams competing but will be aiming for a top four finish.
Who is the team to look out for?
The Spanish women are the reigning world champions and Brazil has been the top team for many years.
How can fans tune-in?
We'll be keeping the social media accounts and website updated, and the games will be streamed online on the Olympic Channel.
You can follow us at: www.beachhandballaustralia.com
Instagram - @ausbeachhandball or Facebook - Australian Beach Handball Team.
The Aussie Beach Gliders' opening match of the tournament will be against Brazil at 6:40pm AEST on Wednesday July 26. You can keep track of all results via this link: https://theworldgames2017.com/en/results/