Handball teams hope to give fans a strong finish to TO2015

Feature photo: Canada taking a shot on Dominican Republic in handball at TO2015.

Often recognized as the fastest team ball sport in the world, handball is one of those games that doesn’t get as much attention in Canada as it probably deserves.

On Day 11 at Toronto 2015, the Canadian men’s team concluded its preliminary round play with a 26-17 loss to Uruguay. The men dropped two of their three games in pool play, but got a 28-25 win over the Dominican Republic. They will now play in classification matches for places 5 to 8.

“I believe our chances are good,” said Casper Bilton of the team moving forward. “We have a good team and I know we can beat other teams on a good day.”

“We’d like to at least offer fans a fifth place finish,” said Geoffroy Bessette Colette, who competed at the last two Pan Am Games.

The Canadian women completed their pool play on Monday with a 21-21 tie against Puerto Rico. They will now face Cuba in the first of their classification matches for fifth to eight place after dropping their other two games to Brazil and Mexico.

Team Canada blocks a shot from Mexico in women's handball at TO2015

Team Canada blocks a shot from Mexico in women’s handball at TO2015

“We knew that it was going to be a tough game,”said Kim Barette St-Martin of the tie. “We tried to win but it was a tight game. We made a few mistakes, but I think we always push it together so that we can at least play well.”

Part of the reason for the sport’s low profile is that Canada hasn’t competed in an Olympic handball tournament since Montreal 1976, when Barette’s father Pierre St-Martin was a member of the squad. It was his stories that drove her dream of competing on the biggest stage. There are two provinces where the sport has broken through, Quebec and Alberta, so it is no surprise that the entire women’s team comes from one of those two.

The men’s team features several players who play in Europe where the sport has top professional leagues that play in front of NHL-sized crowds. Among them are Mark Alan Walder, who grew up in Switzerland but has always wanted to play for the Canadian national team so that he could better promote the sport in his father’s homeland.