Athlete of June 2024

In a thrilling display of skills, Lucie-Marie Kretzschmar of Germany and her team emerged victorious at the Beach Handball World Championships, held in Pingtan (CHN), cementing their place at the top of the sport. Germany retained their crown, defeating Argentina in the gold match 2-0.

Reflecting on their triumph, Kretzschmar, who turns 24 on 7 August 2024 as the IWGA will be celebrating the One Year to Go mark to TWG 2025, shared the significance of this achievement for her and her teammates.

"This title has a very special place in our hearts," she said. "We had to deal with many difficult situations before and during the tournament, and the fact that we managed it together as a team shows the incredible strength we have built up over the last few years."

Adding to her team's accolades, Kretzschmar was also selected into the All-Star team as Best Defender, a recognition she values deeply both personally and professionally.

"I am extremely proud to have received such a special individual award after 10 years of beach handball, especially at a World Championship," she noted. "But I also know that no one can really be singled out from our defence. Each individual brings their strengths, and that is what makes us so strong."

With their recent victory, Kretzschmar and her team have qualified for The World Games 2025 in Chengdu, an event they eagerly anticipate. Altogether, this is why the IWGA named her June 2024’s Athlete of the Month.

"We are already looking forward to this adventure," she said when asked about Germany’s qualification.

"The last edition of The World Games in Birmingham (USA) were an incredible experience for all of us, and the fact that we now have the chance to take part in this special tournament again is a reward for our continuous work over the last few years."

Despite their gold medal win at The World Games 2022, Kretzschmar feels no added pressure but rather motivation for the upcoming games.

"We're used to being the hunted ones by now, and I think we've handled that role very well so far," she explained. "We're just looking forward to having another tournament and being able to compete with the best teams in the world."

Reflecting on their journey from Birmingham to now, Kretzschmar outlined both the highlights and the challenges they have faced.

"The title in Birmingham was a great end to a great year with our first three titles in three major beach handball events," she said. "Since then, we have continued to work on our fine-tuning, developed automatisms, but also had to work with some changes and injuries and adapt our game system accordingly."

Beach Handball, a sport gaining popularity for its fast-paced and spectacular nature, holds a special place in Kretzschmar's heart. She believes its excitement for both players and fans makes it a unique sport.

"Beach handball is a very spectacular and fast sport. During these 20 minutes, it is pure action, and you don't dare look away," she adds. "The fun factor and the atmosphere round off the sporting aspect and make it a spectator-friendly and attractive sport."

Preparing for major championships like the World Championships or The World Games involves rigorous training camps, despite the limited time together due to Indoor Handball commitments.

"We often have a training camp at the end of the year in November or December," Kretzschmar explained. "Then we have another training camp in April until the direct preparation for the tournaments begins in June and July. We use the little time we have all the more intensively and try to work as precisely as possible in the shortest time possible."

Looking ahead to Chengdu, Kretzschmar is excited about both the competition and experiencing a new city and country.

"Chengdu as a city seems to be very interesting and huge. I hope that we get the opportunity to see and discover as much of the city as possible," she said.

As Beach Handball continues to evolve, Kretzschmar aspires to play a significant role in its development, both as an athlete and a potential ambassador for the sport.

"In Germany, I would like to be a kind of ambassador who brings the sport to the masses and shows what a great sport Beach Handball is," she said. "I hope that we can achieve greater popularity for the sport both internationally and nationally and encourage many young people to play Beach Handball from a young age."

Finally, Kretzschmar hopes to see Beach Handball included in the Olympic programme and aims to continue contributing to the sport, potentially as a coach or official.

"I hope that I can play at this level for a few more years and after that, I could imagine taking on a role as a coach or official to keep Beach Handball alive and to continue to promote the sport," she concluded.

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