SPORTS fans in South Tyneside will be able to take in the Olympic game of handball for the first time this weekend.
The event, organised by Newcastle Vikings Handball Club, will see male and female teams from England and Scotland competing in the tournament at the Temple Park Leisure Centre, South Shields, on Saturday.
The tournament starts at 10am and entry is free to anyone who wants to go along and watch the matches throughout the day.
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure services, said: “It’s really good to see South Tyneside playing an active part in continuing to develop the Olympic legacy, and help inspire young people to keep fit and healthy by getting involved in playing exciting new sports like this.
“I hope this tournament is the start of something really promising for the North East.”
The tournament will see Newcastle Vikings’ men take on teams from Sunderland University, York, Bedfordshire’s Cranfield University, Edinburgh, Glasgow and East Kilbride in Scotland.
In the women’s competition, the Vikings will be playing against Edinburgh, York and Cranfield University.
Newcastle Vikings Handball Club is the first non-university handball club in the North East and was founded Marlen Slinning and fellow enthusiasts in September 2012.
Ms Slinning, who is from Norway – the home of the Olympic handball champions – is the head coach and chairwoman of the club.
She has played handball all her life and was inspired to set up the club in the wake of the London 2012 Olympic Games:
She said: “I’ve been playing handball since I was about five, it’s really popular across continental Europe but less known in Britain.
“I wanted to build on the huge interest and legacy generated by the Olympics. Handball has really taken off and we’re developing rapidly as a club with the help of Sport England, establishing promising senior and junior teams for both girls and boys. I also teach handball in local schools.“
She added: “We’ve got a good mix of experienced and new players of all ages at the club now and our aim is to grow handball across Newcastle and the North East. This tournament in South Tyneside is a big step towards that, and hopefully we’ll attract some new members to our club too.
“This is a great opportunity to come along and watch the fastest ball sport in the world.”
South Tyneside Council worker and Vikings goalkeeper, Andrea King, was inspired to try her hand at the sport after going to watch the Olympic women’s handball semi-final in London.
“A couple of months later a friend told me about a new handball club setting up in Gateshead so I went along, and through that I found out about the Newcastle Vikings.
“Coming third in our first league season has been amazing.”
Newcastle Vikings Handball Club train on Wednesday evenings at the Percy Hedley Sports Academy, Killingworth, North Tyneside, – juniors from 7pm to 8pm and adults from 8pm to 10pm.
The club is also planning to start up additional junior and senior training sessions at Temple Park Leisure Centre from September.
Further information can be found atwww.newcastlehandball.co.uk and on the club’s Facebook page.