2011 PanAm Games Qualification: Now USA and Canada know what will await them!

Following the South American Games last March, the Central American and Caribbean Games have now been completed as far as handball is concerned. This means that, on both the men’s and the women’s side, most of the 8 participants in the handball tournaments in the PanAmerican Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, in October 2011 are now known. And in Guadalajara it will be determined who will be the direct qualifiers from our continent for the Olympic Games in 2012.

The fields in the PanAmerican Games are as follows so far:
[u]MEN[/u]: Mexico (host), Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Dominican Republic and Venezuela. One further team will be the winner Canada-USA, and the final slot will go to the winner of a ‘final chance’ tournament between those next in line: Uruguay, Puerto Rico, Guatemala and the loser Canada-USA. See also our ‘2012 page’ for the men: http://teamhandballnews.com/page35.html

[u]WOMEN[/u]: Mexico (host), Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Also here the winner Canada-USA, plus the winner of the ‘final chance’ event: Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador and the loser Canada-USA. See our ‘2012 page’ for the women: http://teamhandballnews.com/page36.html

[u]Commentary[/u]: I have earlier commented on the women’s competition in the Central/Caribbean Games. The men’s side had a bit more drama, as it was clear that one quite strong team would fail to qualify directly for Guadalajara and instead would have to try the route via the ‘2nd chance’ tournament. And this tough situation is now what awaits Puerto Rico, which is surely disappointing for the ‘islanders’. They had prepared meticulously but it was not enough. Venezuela turned out to be too strong. What doomed Puerto Rico was the one-goal loss against Mexico in the group play. This led to a semifinal against the favorites from the Dominican Republic and another loss after a valiant battle.

By contrast, Venezuela got to play Mexico in the semifinal, and they surprisingly pulled it off, by a rather good margin 29-23. This is really quite remarkable for a country where handball in a serious way did not start until five years ago. The government has provided very generous support for the rapid build-up and preparations, but it was still not quite expected that Venezuela would do this well. There is now jubilation in the sports community, and as seen from the linked news report, http://www.solodeportes.com.ve/2010/07/28898/balonmano-clasifica-a-la-final-y-a-los-panamericanos-2011/ the credit is now given to President Chavez personally! Let us hope that Chavez did not get too distraught by the clear loss (28-40) in the today’s final against the Dominican Republic.

An awkward rumor has arisen in the aftermath of this week’s competition. As I noted a few days ago, it is remarkable that Cuba is not participating. But now it is being suggested that somehow pressure will come to let Cuba in ‘through the back door’ to the PanAmerican Games, by allowing them to participate in one or both of the ‘final chance’ events mentioned above. The notion is that one or the other of the clearly weaker Central American teams who have just qualified for the ‘final chance’ would voluntarily withdraw and leave a place vacant.

This would clearly be unconscionable, considering what it would do to teams that have properly and fairly participated in the prescribed qualification process. It involves not just a chance to play in Guadalajara but also the final opportunity to have a shot at qualifying for the Olympics for teams such as Chile’s women, Uruguay’s men, and Canada and the U.S. Personally I can only assume that the whole rumor is based on someone’s wishful thinking or on somebody else’s worst fears of foul play. Surely the PATHF/IHF and the ODEPA/IOC would not tolerate such shenanigans in any case! So one must hope that PATHF would want to make a statement and confirm the rules, in order to dismiss these rumors.