One of the disciplines that started even before the official start of the 3rd European Games Krakow-Malopolska 2023 was beach handball. Its debut at an event of this stature went extremely well.
Beach handball has appeared on the schedule of the European Games for the first time. It had been absent in the previous two editions – in Baku in 2015 and Minsk in 2019. Its introduction was another step in the bid to join the ranks of Olympic disciplines.
A total of 16 teams – eight each in the men’s and women’s competitions – entered the contest at the Beach Arena in Tarnow. In addition to the host Polish national team, the best teams from the recent European Championships in Nazare, Portugal, took part in the competition. This made for a top-level tournament.
There were no surprises in the men’s tournament. The semi-finals were reached by Hungary, Denmark, Portugal and Spain, the first, third, fourth and fifth teams in Nazare. The result from the Portuguese beaches was not repeated only by the vice-champions of that event, Germany, who came to Tarnow in a much changed line-up.
The Spanish eventually won the gold medals, after an exciting battle and shoot-outs, beating the Hungarians. The Danes came out on top in the bronze medal clash, also after a shoot-out win over the Portuguese.
Also in the women’s competition, the final match was decided in the shoot-outs. The gold was won by the Danes, who defeated the Spanish in the deciding match. Their triumph came as a surprise, as they only finished seventh in Nazare – the last place to qualify for the European Games. In the bronze medal match, the European champions Germany won against Norway.
The tournaments did not go as planned for the Polish national team. The men initially took second place in their group, but after the Norwegians protested over the end of the match with the red-and-white team and the match was repeated, they eventually finished third, which meant that instead of Germany, they played the European champions Hungary in the quarter-finals. After a fierce clash, they only lost to them in the shoot-outs. In the end, they took 8th place.
The same place was won by the Polish handball players. The white-reds also entered the quarter-finals from third place in the group. However, in the match to enter the semi-finals, they lost to Germany and then lost to Portugal and Greece. The clash with the latter was at the same time a farewell to the national team for the legend of Polish handball, Iwona Niedźwiedź, who ended a prolific sporting career.