Wednesday 26 April 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Handball, Sports
The men’s side who played against Australia and New Zealand twice lost all their four matches. Against eventual champions Australia, Cook Islands lost 1-2 and 0-2 and went down to New Zealand 0-2 in both matches.
The women’s team finished third after losing to eventual champions Australia 0-2 and New Zealand 1-2 in preliminary rounds. The side defeated American Samoa 2-0 in the other match.
In the semi-final, Cook Islands women lost to New Zealand 0-2 before beating American Samoa 2-0 in the third-place playoff.
Cook Islands’ Alberio Lazaro finished the tournament as the top goal scorer.
In the lead up to the tournament, Cook Islands men’s captain Paul-Luiz Van Eijk said: “It has been four years since we took part in an international beach handball competition. Our team is looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge that is in front of us. We have many new players and we are all ready and hungry to represent the Cook Islands.”
“The biggest change is that we have local competitions every year now. The Cook Islands Beach Handball championships are open to local teams and hopefully one day an international team may come and take part. It keeps getting bigger and better. Also, the Cook Islands Games allow you to represent your island with a far more intense level of competition.”
Maureen Katoa, player/coach of the women’s national team, said they used the championships to gain exposure.
Katoa also acknowledged the Cook Islands Games as a platform to build the national squad for international events such as the Oceania Beach Handball Championships.
“Handball has definitely built up a profile [through them]. Keeping little social competitions leading up to these bigger events is what we needed to keep the sport going. It also helps the federation to look more on the development side. They are pushing our youth athletes and helping them play more competitively against the senior sides. We want to encourage the future to rise to the occasion.”
National women’s team skipper Janna Kimiora Pureau said she was proud and honoured to don the Cook Islands uniform “as it represents who I am”.
“It’s important to me as it shows who I represent and where I am from, which is the Nga-Pu-Toru Islands Mauke/Mitiaro/Atiu/Mangaia,” Pureau said.
“The sport is getting more recognition in the Cook Islands with a lot more people joining and loving it. We also have the Cook Islands Beach Games held on a yearly basis and the Cook Islands Games held every two years. Handball is now on a new level from when I first joined.
“I hope more Cook Islanders can get involved and learn to love the game as much as I do. I want to help train and develop younger Cook Islanders to represent our country and to be proud to wear our colours. It would be a great opportunity for them and myself. I want to make handball the number one sport in the Cook Islands.”
Van Eijk, who discovered the sport back around 2018 through his wife, hopes Cook Islands “maybe one day be the team that represents Oceania on the world stage or even make it to the Olympic Games”.