HUMANS OF BEACH HANDBALL: In our second feature focusing on athletes who have influenced the sport, professional indoor goalkeeper Ditte Vind reflects on winning the beach EURO with Denmark last year
Humans of Beach Handball: Ditte Vind
The Midas touch
Ditte Vind smiles, holds her hands up and grins even wider before she politely begins to make her apologies.
She never intended to walk straight into her first major European beach handball tournament and head home with a gold medal.
But that was exactly what happened last summer. Denmark beat Hungary to claim the Beach Handball EURO title for first time and Vind’s debut on the beach went down in history.
As a goalkeeper who had played her professional career throughout the top indoor league in her native Denmark, Vind never envisaged an introduction like this.
She played beach handball at 18 but had to wait seven years before her first national appearance on the sand last summer. You get an impression that her whirlwind beginning to the national beach team almost makes her feel guilty.
“I had some really great teammates – many of them had worked 10 years to prepare themselves for this moment this. I had worked one summer,” Vind explains in the second interview of our Humans of Beach Handball series.
“I was almost as excited watching them get their medals than I was receiving mine because I know how much it meant to them and all the hard work they had put in through the years.”
Those are kind, honest – modest – words. They are warm words of genuine respect for players who had dedicated a decade of the lives to the sport and whose passion and sacrifice led, finally, to a beach handball dream coming true.
You still somehow get the impression Vind has a bad conscious. As if it was not fair that she rocked up and won gold at her first attempt when her teammates had tried for so long to win.
However, she need not feel that. One watch of the final on ehfTV is enough. With less than 60 seconds left on the clock, and with Denmark just two points ahead, Vind saves a Hungarian penalty. The fingers on her left hand divert the ball to safety. It is a real punch the air, savour-the-moment moment.
The save ensures a thrilling finale. Denmark win the second set by one point. The winning goal is scored with one second left on the clock.
“We never really spoke about winning,” recalls Vind. “We sat down as a group before it started and talked about our wishes and what we wanted to do during the tournament. For me, I had no idea. I was like ‘I’m just new’ – I had no idea of the level of the other teams and was just happy just to see where things would go.
“In the end it was emotional, and exciting and nerve-wracking. It was a major championship, after all.
“I’m a crier when it comes to big sporting events and achievements and I think apart from crying I thought to myself ‘oh my god, is this happening?’
“My heart was in my throat. There was no nervousness, more excitement. It was like an out-of-body experience of some kind. It was great…”
Danes mean business
In the end, Vind’s huge smile would become one of the most iconic images of the competition as the Danes swept all before them on their way to gold. The photographs encapsulated not only the thrill and surprise of the Danish success but also their love of beach handball.
“The whole atmosphere in beach handball is amazing,” says Vind, who kept goal this season for TTH Holstebro in her homeland before the outbreak of Coronavirus ended live sport around the globe.
“There’s always music and kind people everywhere you go; people play fair – they are playing a sport that they really love, and that’s the main thing.
“In Denmark, every aspect of handball is taken very seriously. It’s pretty cool that the Danish federation is doing more to help beach handball and integrate it into the indoor handball season.
“That was not always the case when I was younger but now there are many great Danish players and as a result strong competition for places into the national team squads.”
The human touch
Vind’s heart has always beat to the tune of beach handball throughout an indoor career that has taken her from Odense, Nykobing and Aarhus to Holstebro.
“I have always said to my coaches that beach handball is important to me,” she says. “As a goalkeeper I’m allowed to do more in beach handball… and, well, the sand doesn’t hurt that much!”
Her passion for the beach flows throughout our interview. And it extends online in her own words in a blog.
“I originally started it because I thought people thought handball pros were boring. If you listen to us in interviews, you’d probably think we do not have much of a personality.
“I thought I’d write about my life and my experiences to give people a view on what’s going on in a professional handball player’s life and not just training training training.”
Humans of handball?
“Yes, we are real people who experience different things.”
The name of her blog?
Bare Kald Mig Ditte.
Just call me Ditte.
Read Humans of Beach Handball part 1
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