Newberry: World Games bring exotic sports to Alabama

AP photo by Jay Reeves / German beach handball player Michelle Schaffer shoots against American defender Isabelle Gosar during competition Wednesday at the World Games in Birmingham, Ala.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Like a fish out of water, Elisabeth Hammerstad tracked down a simple garden hose to wash off the sand and drench herself in a bit of relief from the blistering Alabama heat.

The fair-skinned Hammerstad, her hair tied back in a French braid, had just helped Norway to an easy victory over Australia. In beach handball, of all sports.

Hammerstad sees nothing unusual about her Arctic homeland standing out in an obscure sport that would seem best suited to warm-weather nations.

"We have summer in Norway, too," she said with a wry smile.

One other thing: What is beach handball?

Those sort of queries come up frequently at the World Games, a sort of Island of Misfit Toys for a fascinating array of sports that are on the outside looking in at the Olympics, enviously hoping for their chance to someday shine on the biggest stage.