Celebrating Women in Handball!

Mar 08 2024,

In honour of Women in Sport Week, this week we're shining a light on all the incredible women who've made their mark on Olympic Handball here in Ireland. Celebrating their achievements and contributions to making our sport what it is. Not only that, but we're recognising the leaps forward made in sport for women and in opening opportunities over recent years.

We've loved hearing their stories about the challenges, triumphs (and sometimes, sheer tenacity!) that drives our sport forward and helps create a unique and diverse Olympic Handball community.

Amanda Fernandes Melo


Why she loves handball: Playing handball allows me to be detached from any type of stress and anxiety. When I first discovered Dublin City Handball in 2018, I was struggling with my mental health. My doctor suggested that I find an activity that I truly enjoy, so I decided to join DCH. It turned out to be a great decision, as it significantly helped me overcome my mental health challenges and I am very grateful for that.

Her biggest challenge: To have a voice and be understood by the many different cultures and backgrounds within our team. To overcome those challenges I needed to bring transparency, raising not only issues but ways to improve and face our challenges. 

Memorable moment: Definitely when I coached 16 girls during a match last year. It was an amazing experience and helped me to understand how difficult it is to meet the full team's expectations.  

Emma Chalencon


Why she loves handball: UCC became my home away from home, where I found my crew and a sense of belonging, and women who supported me both on and off the court. Today, I make sure every newcomer feels welcome and gets to experience the inclusive, safe, and fun vibe we've built at UCC. 

Her biggest challenge: Being a woman in these roles isn't always easy, but we bring a different kind of leadership to the table. When I first joined UCC, the women's team wasn’t even in the league and there was lots of discussion about mixed training sessions. Since then, we've had two female presidents. I'm proud of the values that now define UCC.

Memorable moment: Two years ago when we surprised everyone by finishing third place at the Irish Cup. We were playing most of our games short-handed due to injuries. That bronze medal felt like winning the jackpot! 

Patricia Einfeldt


Why she loves handball: I started playing handball in Germany at an age when my kit was longer than my legs. It kept me sane all these years. The most fun moments are tournaments at home or abroad and having fun with the girls. 

Her biggest challenge: When refereeing matches, especially senior men's matches, I feel that there’s an underlying feeling to "prove yourself" and "appear professional". That goes for women in any sport I think. 

On women’s handball: There are plenty of stereotypes to be challenged and doors to be opened for future generations, but I’m pleased to see more females getting involved in non-player roles, female talent being promoted, more funds being allocated and more support for the women's teams.

Memorable Moment: When the lights were dimmed and my name was called at European Cup games. 

Caitriona Smith


Why she loves handball: Handball is a great sport and it’s really growing in Ireland, but aside from that, it will give you a great sense of community and female friendship that can’t be easily found outside of sport. Handball has been in my life through all the ups and downs of teenage years. It‘s a chance to play with my girls, and for that time, nothing else matters. I look forward to it each week.

On women’s handball: We’re lucky that handball is fairly equal across the genders in Ireland but that doesn’t mean it’s without issues, for example if we’re given a court where the basketball hoops were lifted, it impedes any chance for our goalie to throw the ball for a fast break.

Memorable moment: I’ve had many memorable moments like representing Ireland with the same girls I had played with since 13. This year so far has been our most successful, our gap versus the other teams is closing and we can really see our training paying off.

Amina Zaiter


Why she loves handball: Born and raised in Dublin, I started playing handball at 7 years old in primary school. As a teenager I was chosen to represent Ireland, playing against Scotland, England, France and the Netherlands. Today, handball is the biggest thing in my life! It’s where I’ve found my closest friends. Working hard, training and playing together creates a bond that not many people understand.

On women’s handball: Before, the female national team didn’t receive as much attention as our male counterparts. I’ve seen growth, and we’re lucky to have women who contribute so much passion to the sport. I would personally love to see more female coaches, plus people coming to watch female matches and show support.

Sofia Sarapaite


Why she loves handball: I love the pace and energy of handball. Throwing the ball between players so many times per match is really fun. I also like that there’s so much direct contact with my teammates. Everyone on my team is friendly and helpful, and I really look up to my coach, Tomas.

On women’s handball: Seeing women in sport is inspiring. It shows me that I can be part of this game for many years to come. 

Memorable moment: Getting an official Dublin International jersey with my name on it!

Olympic Handball Ireland is so proud of the women who help shape and grow our sport, creating a place for everyone of all backgrounds. We’ll keep shining a light on female representation thanks to our investment in Women In Sport and together as a community, inspire a new generation of female athletes.