GULF SHORES, Ala. (WALA) – If you don’t instantly recognize the sport of handball, you’re not alone. For several people in Gulf Shores, this weekend was their first foray into the beloved international sport.
“Never seen it before and I don’t think our community has either, but we’re excited. We love it,” Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft said.
It’s similar in play to lacrosse, minus the sticks and with a bit more flair.
“It’s fast-paced, it’s high scoring, especially on the beach where you have some of the fancy plays, some of the trick shots and whatnot,” Sarah Gascon, team captain for the U.S. Lady Liberties, said.
Gascon helped lead her team to the gold in the first American Beach Handball Championship.
“The women really came out and they proved that we have a lot of heart. We worked extremely hard and it was just a great environment. It’s a great competition. Columbia is a great team, very good competitors. So it was a great opportunity for us,” Gascon said.
The Columbian team claimed victory in the men’s division. The event brought together officials and players from around the globe and only took about a year to pull off.
“I’m amazed. I really am amazed. My whole life has been in sport organization and this is as good as it gets,” Tom Rosandich, founder and president of the United States Sports Academy, said.
“I hope this is just the beginning of a nice event that is going to get bigger and bigger because there is a lot quality, a lot of people here that are willing to help. And we want to thank Gulf Shores, The Hangout, and all the people that helped for this organization,” Christian Latulippe, coach of the Lady Liberties, said.
And as for the players, they would love to see the sport flourish in the states like it has overseas.
“Handball in general, whether it’s played indoor or outdoor is, in my opinion, very American…This is a really great opportunity for us to grow the sport just one step at a time, starting with this community and the community we have in Auburn,” Gascon said.
Gulf Shores officials said the tournament will be an annual tradition held during the last weekend of each April. To learn more about beach handball, click here.