Everything you need to know about the first African Beach Games
The first-ever African Beach Games are coming to Sal, Cape Verde.
The small, West African nation will host a major multi-sports event for the first time, with approximately one thousand athletes set to participate, June 14 to 23.
If you want to watch the games, you're in luck! They will be streamed live on Olympic Channel so check out the full schedule below.
42 countries, 11 disciplines
Athletes from 42 countries, competing in 11 disciplines will compete on the eastern island of the archipelago, seeking continental honours and World Beach Games qualification.
The sports include athletics, basketball 3x3, beach handball, beach soccer, beach tennis, beach volleyball, coastal rowing, freestyle football, karate kata, kiteboarding and open water swimming.
In certain events, athletes are competing for an additional, special prize.
Sal 2019 is the first event where beach volleyball players can earn points towards Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualification.
Countries have entered male and female athletes in nine disciplines — a major development, according to Yann Craven, the CEO of Sal 2019 Organising committee.
“Except for kiteboarding and freestyle football, where we shall have only men teams, we shall see men and women competitors across all the rest. In beach soccer where we haven’t seen African women play it competitively, we shall have four teams alongside the ten male teams. Also in beach handball which is relatively new in Africa, we shall have about six women teams,” Yann told the Olympic Channel from Sal.
The host nation, with an estimated population of just over 500,000, will field a team in nearly all 11 disciplines, matching African powerhouses Nigeria, Algeria and Tunisia, who will be fielding the largest teams at Sal 2019.
“We are setting records and precedents and more importantly giving an opportunity to African athletes to compete at the top level which is very rare in Africa,” Yann added.
“Sal 2019 will provide the environment of a multi-sport and give them the familiarisation and experience of competing at top events as they look to compete at the World Games and the Olympics.”
The much-anticipated men’s and women’s half marathon will be run on the beach of Santa Maria, where East African neighbours Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia are widely expected to dominate.
The Cape Verde beaches will also host basketball 3x3 competitions.
Cote d’Ivoire and Mali are the reigning men's and women's 3x3 Africa Cup champions respectively, and will be likely contenders again in Sal.
There will also be a men’s dunk contest and a shoot-out event for the women.
Beach handball could become one of the lasting legacies of the Africa Beach Games.
The success of the sport at Buenos Aires 2018, where it made its Olympic debut, suggests it will be a major hit in Sal again.
Besides Egypt, who hosted and won the first ever Beach Handball World Championships in 2004, most of the teams will be lining up against top-level competition for the first time.
The 360-degree jump shots, the kempas (alley-oops) and the nail-biting shoot-outs are sure to enthrall crowds.
In the arena, beach handball has the highest number of competitors after beach soccer and volleyball.
Twelve countries are listed to compete in the men’s event, and six in the women's.
The continental sports body is also looking to ride beach volleyball's wave of popularity in Sal.
“The African Handball Confederation has made beach handball one of its priorities for the year 2019,"said Dr Mansourou Aremou, the president of CAHB.
"We have a strong desire to innovate and boost the sport as we look to promote our sport with a focus on the YOG 2022 in Senegal."
Twelve beach soccer men’s teams will line-up in the race for sand supremacy.
Senegal, Africa’s top-ranked beach soccer nation, are favourites from the three groups.
The (sand edition) Teranga Lions are reigning African champions, after beating Nigeria in the 2018 finals.
Four women’s national teams will also compete in beach soccer, the first female competition on African sand.
It will be a round-robin tournament where the two playoffs finalists qualify for the global tournament.
Additionally, teams will compete in freestyle football, an arty and entertaining non-contact football show.
This entails juggling a ball using any part of the body to thrill the audience and outshine opponents. Players can use football tricks, dance and acrobatics.
Another dynamic sport featuring at Sal 2019 is sand tennis. It shares many similarities with tennis, but it is a volley game, and the ball is not allowed to bounce.
Agility is key as they stretch to keep the ball off the sand. Beach tennis is played on a court similar in measurements to that of beach volley.
The players use rackets known as huddles, and can produce a wide range of shots. The ball is softer than a tennis ball.
Africa hosted the Beach Tennis Championships once in 2018 in Morocco.
In Cape Verde, there will be the men's and women’s competitions, followed by mixed doubles.
Beach volleyball will likely have the highest number of entries, owing to its popularity among fans.
Twelve teams will compete in both the men's and women’s competitions, all seeking crucial Olympic ranking points that will boost their qualification hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Newly-crowned African champions Morocco (men) and Egypt (women) have confirmed their participation, alongside Kenya who missed the Nations Cup held last April.
Kenya's top ranked volleyball player Gaudencia Makokha, who was also part of the gold medal winning team at the 2015 All African Games, told Olympic Channel that their performance at Sal 2019 would define their season.
“We are not just going to Sal to participate but to secure our tickets for 2019 All African Games (in Morocco) and the Olympics.
"We missed Rio 2016, so it’s our wish that at the end of the Beach Games we shall move closer especially to our Olympic target,” she said.
Water sports- coastal rowing, kiteboarding and open water swimming
Coastal rowing is the more adventurous cousin of traditional rowing, and takes place in the sea.
The Atlantic Ocean tides and currents should provide a stern examination the athletes' paddle skills at Sal 2019.
Competitors use wider boats than normal, as they chase medals in men's and women’s singles (solos) and double sculls.
Cape Verde also provides an opportunity for African athletes to compete in kiteboarding.
Africa played host to its first-ever kiteboarding championships last March in Morocco, and Sal 2019 gives the continent’s elite athletes another chance to test and showcase their skills.
Sal is a popular destination for water sports, having hosted the 2019 Kite-surf World Cup in February.
19 men's and 14 women's teams have qualified to compete in the 5km open water swims.
At Sal 2019 karate returns to its origins, an Island. The island of Okinawa in Japan is believed to be the birthplace of Karate. At this year’s Beach Games, 16 men's and women’s teams will get a chance to showcase their defence drills in the sport's original surroundings.
Broadcast schedule for African Beach Games, Sal 2019
From June 14th to 23rd, coverage of the 11 sports will be live on Olympic Channel website and apps, with multiple streams for the different events. For the full coverage plan click here or follow the competition guide below.