Retaining their title won four years ago in Veracruz won’t be easy for Cuba’s women’s team during the Barranquilla competition. Photo: Ricardo López Hevia

Training underway since September 28 by Cuba’s pre-selection handball team in the Dominican Republic, will put them in good stead for the Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, next year.

The group, featuring 14 players from both the men's and women's teams, will be in the sister country through October 12, after which both squads – each with a dozen outfielders and three goalkeepers– will compete for a ticket to the Colombian event in the qualifying tournament for the Caribbean region, October 22-29, in Cartagena de Indias.

According to Raymel Reyes, national handball methodologist, both teams will include players with a moderate level of experience, as well as others whose skills will be put to the test during this training period.

A total of 16 teams (eight men’s and eight women’s) will be competing for four tickets to Barranquilla 2018 during the regional qualifier; with another three tickets to be awarded during a Central American tournament.

The seven qualifying teams, in addition to the host squad, will thus make up the competition’s eight team roster.
Cuba’s women’s selection won gold during the Veracruz 2014 Central American and Caribbean Games, while its men’s squad took bronze, only surpassed by Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
According to Reyes, Cuba will arrive to Barranquilla with a completely new women’s line-up, while the men’s team will feature players who participated in the Veracruz competition, such as far right Omar Toledano; far left Yankiel Cruzata; pivot Alain Vizcay; and left wing Olanis Pérez; while goalkeeper Niurquis Mora is the only member of the women’s squad to have competed in 2014 edition of the regional tournament.
Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are once again competition favorites. Meanwhile, Cuba’s women’s team last appearance in an international competition was during the 2015 World Championships, finishing 23rd out of 24 teams; with the men’s squad securing sixth place in the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games.