Ebiye Jeremy Udo-Udoma, also known as Handball Ninja, is the captain of the USA Beach Handball Team. He led his team at their debut at The World Games in July this year in Birmingham, Alabama. What a great debut it was: Team USA finished fourth, losing the bronze medal match to the team that has dominated the World Games so far, Brazil.
“My experience in Birmingham was amazing!says Udo-Udoma. “Being able to play in front of an American crowd in a stadium is not an opportunity I get often at Beach Handball. The local fans and volunteers in Birmingham have been great to work with, as well as athletes from other countries and sports before, during and after the Games. And to top it all off, there were musical performances fantastic!”
“The 2022 World Games was my first opportunity to compete in a multi-sport event in the States. Being the last country to walk out to the opening ceremony and having a stadium full of people chanting “USA-USA” along with other members of the Team USA delegation while my friends and family watched me on the Olympic Channel was one of the more surreal experiences I’ve had in my life so far.“
After playing many sports as a child, Ebiye Udo-Udoma won Harlem Globetrotters Online Talent Search 2012 in 2012, and a scout referred him to a tryout for the USA handball team. He made his handball debut at the age of 20 and has since won gold at the Pan American Championships with the US Beach Handball team and even scored some goals that went viral.
He says beach handball is a unique team sport: “TIn my opinion, there are relatively few team sports where the process of getting better at sports is very intricately linked to the process of becoming a better, healthier person. The strength, balance, intelligence, grace, and collectivism needed to succeed in beach handball are qualities that will come in handy for anyone in life far from sand too. It’s a sport I can give my all to, and AND know that I will leave this in perfect health whenever I decide to retire. As with many beach sports, our playing areas tend to be aesthetically pleasing 🙂 “
Ebiye Udo-Udoma also played handball, an indoor version of the sport. He describes the main differences between the two disciplines:Apart from the differences in playing surface, i.e.to me. sand vs. hardwood court, there are 2-point goals and 1-point goals in beach handball, as opposed to each target being worth only 1 point. Too shorter court (21M x 12M vs 40M x 20M), shorter game length (10-minute vs 30-minute periods) and a different overtime system where beach handball has dynamic hockey-style shooting while handball has soccer- stylish on-site shooting system.”
When asked what other sport of the World Games could compete if necessary, he has several options in mind. “It would be realistic Flying disc or parkour, because these are the disciplines that I had direct experience with in high school and college, although I think I could be proficient in some other ball sports such as Fistball, Flag Football or Korfball with my beach handball experience.”
What is your greatest strength in beach handball?
“Different beach handball analysts may give different answers to this question, but I think the notable thing that sets me apart from other beach handball players is my ability to pass and shoot with both hands. It’s a force that adds a layer of unpredictability to my game, while helping me find or create solutions on the court.“
How are The World Games different from a world championship or other tournament in your sport?
“On the court, it is not much different when it comes to the actual game, simply The World Games is the most exclusive tournament in the sport with only 8 qualifying teams from each gender. At the Beach Handball World Championship, 16 teams of each gender qualify, and there are 12 teams of each gender at the World Beach Games.“
Have you been able to see other sports in Birmingham? What have you seen or what would you like to see?
“Yes! The beach handball tournament ended on July 15, which allowed me and my team–colleagues the opportunity to see the events that had their final 16. I saw Racquetball, Ju-Jitsu, Gymnastics (Aerobic & Rhythmic and Acrobatic & Trampoline) and Canoe Polo.
I regret that there was not enough time to see literally every event live after meeting my entry requirements, especially those involving athletes I met in the village of athletes from different countries during the Games.“
how has your life was after The World Games? What do you do outside of sport?
“I didn’t have much time to decompress after The World Games, because I started in Poland less than two weeks after the Closing Ceremony and after the match against Birmingham I had to focus straight away on trying to win the Polish Summer Superleague with my team SAS Gda?sk. Additionally, the US Beach Handball Tour had remaining tournaments in 2022, and my national team was competing in international friendlies towards the end of the year, so it wasn’t until November that I was able to relax at all. 2022 has been a busy year full of ups and downs, but the USA handball team awarded me the Athlete of the Year award for my efforts, so I will say that life is good.
Outside of sports … I sleep 😀 My life revolves around playing, refereeing, educating, training, serving on the board, studying, creating content, analyzing and coaching athletes in various combinations of sports. Even my favorite “hobbies” has a competitive discipline in Ton World Games: Latin Dance.“
Will we see you in Chengdu for The World Games 2025?
“I had the opportunity to compete in China in 2018 and it was one of the best experiences of my career, I would love to go back there! However, unlike Birmingham, Chengdu does not deliver to us Americans with automatic qualification, and the the journey to get there will be harder than The World Games 2022. That said, we will do our best in 2024 to qualify to compete in TWG2025!“
World games is a multi-sport event organized every four years by the International World Games Association, organized with the support of the International Olympic Committee. The 2022 World Games took place in Birmingham, Alabama, USA from July 7-17, 2022. 3,600 athletes from 34 sports and 100 countries participated in the Games. The 12th edition of The World Games will be held in Chengdu, CHN in 2025.