Edmonton handball athletes propel Canada to Pan American Games

Edmonton’s handball community might be small, but it’s proving to be mighty.

A foursome of athletes from the Edmonton area has helped the Canadian women’s national handball team qualify for the 2023 Pan American Games.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to train for how long we’ve training for and to get that opportunity to accomplish something for your country. You’re filled with pride,” Team Canada goalie Teodora Bosonea said.

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Haven Wong, Katya Chan, Teodora Bosonea and Maksi Pallas helped Canada beat the United States in a pair of games last week to qualify for the major international event.

“We were all in-sync. We were all on the same page and it was just really beautiful to see our growth over the last four years,” Team Canada left back Katya Chan said.

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“It was very surreal,” Team Canada left wing Haven Wong said. “I think Katja and I had experience in the last qualifier, we played the U.S. before, it was nice to be able to come back stronger this time and be able to kind of win against them, maybe not in a commanding way but by a good lead.”

Wong, Chan and Bosonea began playing handball while students at Harry Ainlay High School. Bosonea is a couple years older, while Wong and Chan were in the same grade and have played together since taking up the sport.

Click to play video: 'Global Edmonton MVP: Handball player Haven Wong starts for Canada’s junior national team'

Global Edmonton MVP: Handball player Haven Wong starts for Canada’s junior national team

The opportunity to represent Canada together has made the experience extra special.

“Going from Ainlay’s junior handball team to the senior women’s national team is not even something that I dreamed is possible,” Chan said.

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“It’s one of those things that makes the sport so unique is it’s such a small community here, so being able to actually go with people that we’ve played against, people that we’ve played with, is very surreal. It’s amazing,” Wong said.

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There have been challenges for the athletes as they have been competing at the highest level of the sport.

“A lot of the other countries have professional players, where they don’t do anything except handball,” Wong said. “Our whole team is students, we have our own careers, we have to fund our own way.”

The foursome receives no funding as national team members. While Pallas is playing handball in Germany, Wong, Chan and Bosonea have been training on their own and playing in a local league where they practice once a week and play one game a week with their respective teams.

“It’s just our work ethic that gets us there, because practicing once a week is not ideal, so we make the most of those 90 minutes on the court and then the rest of the time we’re putting in effort to get stronger and faster,” Chan said.

The effort the local athletes have put forth has already paid great dividends and they’ll continue to work hard in preparation for next fall’s Pan Am Games.

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