For the next few weeks, we're pleased to bring you an in-depth look at the Canadian handball team's tournament at the Pan-American Games in Santiago, Chile. Here's the first part, by Guillaume Gaudet, the team's analyst.
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Hi Guillaume, who are you ?
My name is Guillaume Gaudet. I am mission chief of the women's handball team for the Pan American Games. I also serve as the analyst (video and statistics) on the team.
Can you describe Canadian handball, and more specifically, the women's national team participating in the Pan American Games?
Handball in Canada is considered an amateur sport. The athletes involved in the national program are there for the love and passion of the sport. All the costs associated with participating in the sport are the responsibility of the athletes. To finance the Pan American Games, the team has organized several fundraising campaigns to raise funds.
The national women's team is a close-knit and resilient group. Almost the entire young team that participated in the 2019 Pan American Games is present for these Games, which has allowed the group to gain experience and develop truly incredible team chemistry. Cooperation, enjoyment, camaraderie, and good spirits are present at all times. Gratitude is also a key element of this group.
What was your preparation for these Pan American Games?
The gym preparation for this Pan American cycle truly began in March 2022, following the resumption of activities post-COVID. The team maintained several group training sessions via Zoom during the pandemic hiatus. Here is the list of national team gatherings. Note that there were also several training camps by province:
Selection camp in August 2022.
Training camp in September 2022.
Training camp and qualification against the USA in November 2022.
Easter training camp in 2023.
Training camp in May and qualification for the World Championships in Greenland in 2023.
Training camp in August 2023.
Training camp in September 2023.
Two key elements that were present during this cycle are mental preparation and video analysis. Mental preparation greatly helped the players cope with adversity, both on and off the field. Video analysis, on the other hand, helped better understand the strengths and weaknesses of opponents while providing feedback to the players.
Your first match is against the host country, Chile, on October 24. How do you approach this match?
The players are excited and eager to play this first match against the host team. All the focus is on this match for now. We are taking it "one match at a time," and the team is ready to face the Chilean team. The atmosphere will definitely be electric with a loud and partisan crowd supporting the Chilean team. We are confident that we will be able to hear the few Canadian fans who make the journey to Chile to support the team. Furthermore, the previous experience in Greenland, where the players faced the host team in the final, has prepared the group well to perform in a hostile environment.
For you, these Games will be a success if...?
As a handball player in Canada, the Pan American Games are the grandest sporting event one can participate in, after the Olympics. Just participating in this competition is already a success in itself! As for the Games, the group aims for a 2nd position in the pool to qualify for the finals. The ultimate goal is to return home with a medal around our necks!
One last question, do you have an unusual anecdote about the team?
The team has a unique technique for remembering important coaching instructions. With their extraordinary imaginations, they always manage to associate a song with the keywords of the instruction and start singing the song with all their hearts! Another interesting anecdote: The majority of the players were considering retiring from the national program after the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima. Four years later, they are all back on the field, mainly thanks to Head Coach Nathalie Brochu, who found the right words to bring this team together and motivate them for an additional cycle!
All photos provided by the Canadian team