By Gustavo Arellano
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By Courtney Hamilton
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By Charles Lam
The day goes on with trash-talk, wads of cash wagered among spectators, and people getting drunker by the hour. Dueñas couldn't find any referees or even someone to monitor the matches; instead, players report to him who won and who lost. The tournament continues through the weekend, and Dueñas comes in fifth place, taking home no cash, probably even losing some. Nevertheless, Dueñas looks triumphant. "Look how many people came out!" he says. And tomorrow, he has a match scheduled at Canyon Terrace Health Club in Tustin for cash.
Dueñas' next goal: to make handball an Olympic sport in 2016. It's a long shot—according to Cruz, it "doesn't got a prayer"—but Dueñas says if just two more countries participate, handball will get Olympic approval, and when it does, he plans to suit up. "I'm not giving up hope on this," he says. "Right now, I'm playing better than I've ever played. I don't stumble; I don't fall on the floor and dive. And I can play one way one day and a totally different way the next. I don't want anyone to learn my game.
"Sometimes, I think, man," he concludes, "if only I played tennis, I'd be a freakin' star."
This article appeared in print as "Handball Wizard: Sal Dueñas is the king of Orange County’s handball courts—but can he go further and bring the sport some much-needed respect?"