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Olympic Oval hosting Canadian handball championships

Fifteen months removed from basking in the international sporting spotlight, the appeal of the Richmond Olympic Oval remains as strong as ever.

Fifteen months removed from basking in the international sporting spotlight, the appeal of the Richmond Olympic Oval remains as strong as ever.

This weekend, the multi-purpose world class sporting venue will showcase its versatility once more by hosting the Canadian Handball Championships. It marks the first time the tournament has been held in this province in nearly three decades and only the Olympic Oval made it a reality.

"We tried looking at hosting it before but we previously didn't have a venue that could accommodate two full size hand ball courts," explained Marcel Sachse, an executive with Handball B.C. and a member of one of two B.C. men's teams that will be competing. "Once we told (the other provinces) where we would be hosting the nationals, it was an easy sell. Everyone is excited to have the opportunity to play in there."

Sachse is hoping the Canadian Championships will create a legacy to help develop the popular European sport further in B.C. Currently, there are three established teams in the province -- Simon Fraser, UBC and Kamloops. A B.C. Cup event is held annually in November and a Seattle team also provides competition.

Sachse is already running youth handball programs out of the oval and an extra court will be set up at the nationals for people to give it a try.

"It combines elements of soccer and basketball and it's an inexpensive sport to play," he added.

"The championships get underway on Friday with 13 teams (eight men and five women) representing six provinces. The women's gold medal game goes at 2 p.m. on Sunday, followed by the men's final at 3:30 p.m.

Round-robin games go throughout the day on Friday and Saturday, beginning at 8 a.m. Admission is free for all three days, although donations will be accepted to help cover the hosts of hosting the championships.

mbooth@richmond-news.com