Norway, way up in the North of Europe, may not be the first place that springs to mind when thinking about the beach, but this handball-mad country has taken to beach handball in a big way.
One self-confessed Beach Handball addict is the President of the Beach Euro Organising Committee, and former President of the Norwegian Handball Federation, Arne Modahl (pictured right at the Opening Ceremony).
“I guess you could say that I caught the bug at the last Beach Euro in Italy in 2007,” Modahl told eurohandball.com.
“The Norwegian women took the bronze medal at the championship and I was really taken with the sport,” he said.
The Norwegian Handball Federation have now started investing in the development of Beach Handball and the success of their country’s national teams, a budget of one million Norwegian Kroner (110,000 Euro) for the beach national sides is a sign that the federation is taking this young sport seriously.
Beach Handball is not just about the elite however, the Federation regards the sport as the ideal development tool, seen as cool and fun, the sport is already attracting teenagers back into the sport.
Norway boasts some serious handballing talent in its beach squads, the women’s team especially, with players such as Marit Malm Frafjord, an Olympic and European Champion in the indoor version of the sport playing in the squad.
Norway's two-point specialist, Linn Joerum Sulland (pictured below), who also plays for the national indoor team and won gold at the 2008 European Championships in Macedonia, loves the sport so much that she has even insisted on a clause in her professional contract that she be allowed to play for the national beach squad.
Three points for the spectacular?
Modahl continued: “Handball coaches in Norway are really keen on beach handball, it’s a quick game, requires very good perception, you need to be fit and strong and there is much less chance of injury.”
“I can see the day coming when two points for a special goal won’t be enough, perhaps we’ll need a three pointer for something really special, and as the game and beach players develop this will be a serious possibility,” he said.
Norway’s men’s team already had a player scoring from somersaults in one of the test matches ahead of the Euro, and experts are predicting that the 2009 Beach Euro could be the first major championship to witness a somersault two-point goal.
Sun, sun, sun
“We’re very happy,” said Modahl when asked about his impression of beach handball championship in Larvik.
“Though of course we have been very, very lucky with the weather, it’s rained here in Larvik during this week for the last five years,” he smiled.
“The event so far has been better than we could ever have hoped, but this is thanks to the 250 volunteers from the local area and local handball clubs working on the event, they are the people who really make the event work,” he said.
“The Larvik Commune have also been extremely supportive, he said, “we have a lot to thank them for, including the use of all the buildings used to house the event’s administration and press centre, located next to the temporary beach arena.”
Norwegian handball has been phenomenally successful in the past few decades, and that looks set to continue with every single one of Norway’s youth and junior teams having qualified. for a major European or world championship in ‘indoor’ handball.
Who knows, perhaps we could soon be talking about a Norwegian champion in Beach Handball too.
TEXT: JJ Rowland