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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Great Britain Men drawn in Euro 2014

GREAT Britain men will play in the qualifying tournament for the 2014 European Championships in June, as an important part of their preparations for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

They have been drawn in a four-team group alongside Italy, Switzerland and Greece which will take place from June 8-10. Italy were drawn as host nation, although this has not yet been confirmed.

Head Coach Dragan Djukic said: “It is the hardest possible draw, and it looks like the perfect opportunity to finish the first part of our Olympic preparation with excellent competitive games.

“We already played against all three teams (Greece at the beginning of 2009, Swiss in the Yellow Cup 2010 and Italy at home last year), and now it will be interesting to check our progress in last three years.

“For our players, this is another excellent opportunity to play again some of the world’s best players who play in the best European leagues (German Bundesliga, French League). Swiss players Manuel Liniger (Lemgo) and Andy Schmid (Rhein Neckar Lowen), from Greece there is Vasilakis and Sanakis (Melsungen) and from Italy Michele Skatar (Nantes).

“We are maybe "outsiders" from the previous results and our handball tradition, but we will try to play all three games on the best possible level and spring some surprises.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tough Test Ahead for Great Britain Men

Great Britain men’s handball team will face some of their toughest opponents yet when they play in next month’s Pinsent Masons’ London Handball Cup.

The event will see Great Britain battle with Tunisia, Argentina and South Korea – all of whom have qualified for this summer’s London Olympics – from April 5-7 at Crystal Palace National Sport Centre.

Head Coach Dragan Djukic said: “This tournament is one of the biggest sport events this year in the handball world and certainly the best handball tournament ever on British soil.

“The fact that all four teams have already booked their places at the Olympic Games says a lot about the quality of handball. We face the champions of the Asian, African and American continents.

“For Great Britain, this is a good opportunity for our very young team to meet some of the world’s best teams for the first time, and fight with them on home ground.”

The schedule for the tournament is - April 5: 1630: Tunisia v Korea, 1900: GB v Argentina. April 6: 1630: Korea v Argentina, 1900: GB v Tunisia. April 7: 1230: Tunisia v Argentina, 1500: GB v Korea.

Captain Bobby White, 29 and from Milton Keynes, echoed Djukic’s sentiments: “This tournament is going to be a perfect test for us as our preparations for the Olympic Games start to build momentum. Tunisia, Argentina and South Korea have all qualified for London 2012, and what better way to prepare than to play teams that are going to be there.

“We will be looking to compete well with all three teams, but we will not be worried if results don’t go our way. We will be looking to learn as much about our opponents as possible and put what we learn into action come Games time.”

And 26-year-old winger Mark Hawkins, from Horsham in Sussex, added: “It is great for handball in this country that we can host tournaments of this nature featuring the continental champions from Asia, America and Africa.

“Hopefully it is a sign of what is to come in the future and post-2012, to have regular top level international handball being played in the UK.”

Battling GB Women lose out in Poland

SOME strong periods of play from Great Britain women was not enough to stop them losing out to Poland twice in the last week in the Euro 2012 qualifying tournament.

Head Coach Jesper Holmris was pleased with his squad’s performances in periods of both matches, but overall it was not enough and GB cannot now reach the finals of the competition.

Last Thursday’s 33-20 defeat to Poland at Loughborough University saw GB compete well in the first half and they only trailed by two goals at the break. However, Poland stepped up after the break to take the win.

And the return leg on Sunday evening in Elblag saw GB lose out 29-20, after trailing 16-8 at half time. They were just one goal down mid-way through the first half, only for a bad five minute spell which let Poland in. However, after the break GB were strong again and only lost the final 30 minutes by one goal, 13-12.

“Sunday’s performance was much better than in Loughborough,” said Head Coach Jesper Holmris. “Unfortunately we had a bad spell in the last six minutes of the first half even though we were a player up.

“But the second half was very good and very positive. We played very well in attack, and Mayes was fantastic in goal with a 40 per cent save ratio, so she should be very pleased with her performance, and the whole defence too.

“Poland came out at full speed, they desperately wanted to get a result because goal difference could be crucial if they want to qualify for the finals.

“Their first half performance was the best I’ve seen them play, and we coped well with it generally.”

Lyn Byl top-scored for GB in Poland with four goals, while captain Lynn McCafferty and Kathryn Fudge both scored three.

Great Britain will now return to London for more training sessions, where they will take on club teams from overseas before preparing to entertain Montenegro at Crystal Palace on May 30, and then go to Russia for their final Euro 2012 match on June 3.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Strong performance from GB Women not enough for victory

A STRONG first half performance from Great Britain women’s handball team was not enough for them to overcome an experienced Poland team at Loughborough University on Thursday.

Great Britain lost the 2012 European Championship qualifying match 20-33 after losing ground on their rivals, who only led 8-10 at the break and received a tongue-lashing from their coaching team as a result.

Kathryn Fudge (pictured) popped up with four goals – many at crucial times for GB which kept them in the hunt – while Zoe Van Der Weel also scored four from the wing.

“Our defence was very strong, especially in the first half,” said Head Coach Jesper Holmris. “But we have to go back and look at our attack.

“We don’t need to change our defence – we’ve seen that against many top nations. But when we had two minute suspensions and we’re 6 v 5 on court we struggle to cope.

“We’re disappointed with the second half. We can’t play our best for 60 minutes and when we have a bad spell they scored so many because we make technical mistakes. But they were more stressed than us, and we will go into Sunday’s second match in Poland with nothing to lose.”

Great Britain will now return to London to prepare for Sunday’s clash in Elblag.

Teams:

Great Britain: Zoe Van Der Weel 4, Kathryn Fudge 4, Marie Gerbron 3, Holly Lam-Moores 2, Nina Heglund 2, Lyn Byl 2, Ewa Palies 2, Jeanett Andersen 1, Amondine Webb, Lynn McCafferty, Britt Goodwin, Kelsi Fairbrother, Yvonne Leuthold, Laura Innes, Charlotte LeBlanc, Jane Mayes.

Poland: Kinga Polenz 7, Iwona Niedzwiedz 4, Karolina Siodmiak 4, Agnieszka Kocela 4, Malgorzata Stasiak 4, Karolina Kudlacz 3, Katarzyna Koniuszaniec 3, Patrycja Kulwinska 3, Alina Wojtas 1, Agnieszka Wolska, Karolina Zalewska, Hanna Sadej, Karolina Szwed, Karolina Jasinowska, Anna Baranowska, Izabela Czarna.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Holmris Relishing Polish Challenge

GREAT Britain women’s handball team take on Poland in Loughborough on Thursday, and Head Coach Jesper Holmris is relishing the challenge their latest European Championship clashes present.

The team has been training hard over the winter, and their successful Olympic Test Event campaign back in November seems a distance memory.

Holmris and his squad preparing for the double-header against Poland next week with behind-closed-doors friendly matches against world class teams such as Norway and Brazil, and will be going all out to beat Poland and gain even more experience ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games.

“Since the fantastic test event in the Olympic Arena we have been training really hard, but we have not played many matches during the winter months,” he said.

“Two narrow defeats against Angola in January have been the only internationals so we are really looking forward to international competition again.”

Injuries have hit Sarah Hargreaves, Louise Jukes, Holly Lam Moores and Britt Goodwin, but with most players back in full training they’re likely to be 100 per cent fit for the upcoming Poland matches, with the home leg at Loughborough University on Thursday and the return leg in Elblag on Sunday.

“The two qualification matches against Poland will be very tough competition for us,” added Holmris. “Poland is a very strong and experienced team with some top European back court players (Niedwiedz, Kudladz and Byzdra) leading the way.

“They have a very solid and well organised defence and the Polish fast break phase has become a threat for all teams. Head coach Kim Rasmussen will also have more options and a more powerful attack with their star player Karolina Kudladz back from injury than last time we played them.

“We are the underdogs once again, but we will do everything we can to upset a very strong Polish team. We are in good form and expect a very strong performance in front of a sold out home crowd in Loughborough.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Successful partner event for British Handball

British Handball held its third and most successful Partner Networking Event yet at the offices of Pinsent Masons in London.

Over 60 guests attended to hear British Handball's exciting future plans, receive a presentation from LOCOG handball competition manager Alex Gavrilovic and to share partner experiences.

More than a dozen members of the Great Britain team were in attendance to meet with the partners.

Pinsent Masons are one of the latest companies to sign up as a British Handball sponsor, and their Head of Sport Trevor Watkins used the opportunity to announce that Pinsent Masons will be the title sponsor of the upcoming four nations International to be held in London 5-7 April. The tournament will be known as the Pinsent Masons' London Handball Cup.

British Handball CEO Paul Goodwin said that the evening was a great success and that he had received several enquiries from companies wanting to get involved with British Handball as a result of attending the event.

British Handball sign up with OptimaSport

BRITISH Handball has given their Olympic preparations a major boost by signing up to use leading sports assessment and tracking system OptimaSport.

OptimaSport’s technology is the most advanced of its kind, monitoring multiple biological systems and providing the most detailed reports and data.

British Handball Strength and Conditioning Coach, Lee Ottey, said: “When I first viewed the kit I was impressed by what it could offer our athletes to help raise their performance. I also liked the fact that the system was non-invasive and produced some great graphics with a wide range of features.”

The equipment will be integrated into the team’s centralised programme at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre. It will help monitor athletes’ response to training sessions, enabling the coaching staff to track the athletes’ tolerance and stress levels – which in turn will help quantify session specific training loads and to track how an athlete has recovered.

It will also help to detect under- or overtraining, while fitness testing will enable coaches to gauge individual and team improvements.

CEO of OptimaSport, John McLaughlin, said: “We are delighted to be working with the British Handball team and hope that our system helps it achieve success at the Olympics. We believe that our systems would benefit a number of other Olympic teams and are excited by the potential to further grow our presence across all sports – and hopefully help Great Britain achieve as strong a medal haul as possible.”

GB winger Pearce visits school

GREAT Britain winger John Pearce helped pupils at All Saints Catholic School in Barking get to grips with the finer points of handball last week when he attended a session at the Essex school.

Pearce, 24 and from Dorset, helped Year 7 and 10 pupils with training, and even managed a team in a schools competition – which they duly won!

He then visited Newham Flames Handball Club in London, and again helped out with training and showed them some of the drills and moves that international handball stars go through.

Pupils from All Saints started playing handball last year, and have set up a club which meets on Friday afternoons. Since then they have competed in the London Junior League with their Under-16s team as well as the Inter-Borough Girls competition and national competitions.

London Handball Development Officer Ari Bekker said: “John was amazing! He decided to coach them and in seconds he had them doing some new exercises and playing handball – he looked like he had always been doing it!

“The kids loved him! John blew everyone away with his positive, professional and very confident personality towards the kids. They looked up to him and I am sure this will be an experience they will remember when they play in future competitions. They are all hoping to meet him again in April when John will be back on court with GB men.”

After training, John gave out medals to the top three teams and then signed some photos of the GB Men for the youngsters, as well as some of his GB playing kit.

All Saints PE teacher Dermot O'Brien said: “Handball is a new sport we are promoting at All Saints school. We have had a very positive reaction and we have a large amount of pupils attending. The kids were extremely excited when they met an international handball star!”



Thursday, March 08, 2012

Pinsent Masons unveiled as Cup title sponsors

INTERNATIONAL law firm Pinsent Masons has been unveiled as the title sponsor of the London Handball Cup, to be staged in the capital from April 5-7.

Great Britain Men’s handball team will take on Tunisia, South Korea and Argentina in the Pinsent Masons’ London Handball Cup at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The event forms a crucial part of the GB side’s preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games, and has been made possible thanks to considerable backing from UK Sport.

British Handball recently welcomed Pinsent Masons on board as one of a raft of new sponsors which included Collins Stewart Wealth Management, bolstering support for handball from the City’s financial quarter.

One of the fastest growing sports in the country, handball is set to become one of the hits of this summer’s Olympics with participation levels in schools, universities and community groups exploding across Britain.

Trevor Watkins, head of sport at Pinsent Masons, comments: "The inaugural Pinsent Masons’ London Handball Cup is a great platform for us as a multinational law firm. It will enable our staff and clients to engage in our partnership with GB Handball through a prestigious international event. Bringing together leading teams in a pre-Olympics tournament is a great opportunity for us to extend our support for the sport and invest in its future."

UK Sport’s Head of Major Events, Esther Nicholls, said: “UK Sport is pleased to be supporting the Pinsent Masons’ London Handball Cup, which will be a fantastic showcase for handball in the UK, and will provide valuable experience for both the athletes and their support staff ahead of our home Games in under six months time.

“In the lead up to London 2012, 41 of the 46 Olympic and Paralympic sports have secured backing from UK Sport’s National Lottery funded World Class Events Programme to stage a major event, and handball will be the 41st of these, supporting our aspiration to ensure all sports are best prepared for the home staging of the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

British Handball Chief Executive Paul Goodwin said: “We’re delighted to have Pinsent Masons on board, not just as title sponsor for the Pinsent Masons’ London Handball Cup, but also going forward to the future as we continue to promote the sport.

“The Olympics have given us a rare opportunity to introduce Britain to handball, a sport which is massively popular across the world because it is fun, fast and physical and can be played by people of all ages.

“We look forward to working with UK Sport’s events team, Pinsent Masons and all our sponsors as the British teams prepare for the London Olympics. But also we look to the future and hope that some of the youngsters now playing handball for the first time might also achieve their own Olympic Dreams in Rio 2016 and 2020.”

Having British teams competing in the Olympic handball competition for the first time has given the sport a huge boost at grassroots level across the country, with England Handball and Scottish Handball working tirelessly to introduce the sport to as many people as possible.

England Handball reports a major rise in the number of people being introduced to the sport in schools – last year, 58,000 children were introduced to the sport by England Handball, compared to 10,500 three years ago.

They were given a target of getting 3,000 youngsters regularly playing handball by 2013 – as of last year they had smashed that target and report that more than 9,000 have discovered just how much fun the sport is and play it regularly.

British Handball commits to equality

HANDBALL is a wonderful sport for everyone to play – no matter who you are, where you come from or what your level of ability is!

And British Handball believes that so much, that it is working towards being awarded the Equality Standard mark by UK Sport.

Heidi Bech has been appointed lead officer on equality for British Handball, and is working to put together an updated policy to help us make sure all athletes, staff and volunteers all share the same aims.

“British Handball subscribes to the principles of equality of opportunity and strives to ensure that anyone participating or wishing to participate in handball are able to do so in a discrimination-free environment,” said Mrs Bech.

“British Handball also advocates that all those involved in the sport must always comply with the principles of accepted moral and ethical behaviour and exemplary standards of conduct and make sure that everyone is treated fairly.

“British Handball recognises the value of diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity within the organisation. We therefore aim to create the conditions where players, staff and volunteers are treated with dignity and respect and are treated solely on the basis of their abilities and potential regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, race, ethnic or national origins or socio/economic background or other irrelevant distinctions.

“British Handball wishes to work to become an organisation where discrimination, harassment and victimisation do not exist.”

She is conducting an audit among players, staff and key volunteers in order to find groups that are underrepresented within the BHA. The audit will be on age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnic etc.

The audit will then be analysed and British Handball will put together an action plan on how to get the under-represented group more involved in handball.

The Equality Policy will be on the British Handball web site as well as our Twitter and Facebook sites.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

British Referees Land Olympic Role

FORMER GB international handball players Allan Stokes and Brian Bartlett have been appointed as referees at the London Olympic Games later this year.

The duo, who have made a successful switch to refereeing and have already officiated at several top European matches, will work together as one pair of several referees needed for the 24-team handball competition at the 2012 games.

“I am overjoyed that we have received the nomination to be part of the Olympic games in London,” said Stokes. “It shows that with hard work and a willingness to learn and improve people can achieve anything that they wish to, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity we have been given.

“Going forward I am looking forward to being part of the world’s biggest sporting competition, and getting to referee top level matches, and being part of the atmosphere within the handball arena and Olympic Park itself.

“To get selected we have had to try and referee as many games as possible as well as attend courses to receive both our EHF and IHF referee badges. Over the last two years we have travelled from country to country refereeing as well as getting as many domestic matches as possible in Scotland and England as possible.”

Among the events the pair have refereed at are EHF Cup and European Cup matches, World Championship qualifiers, the Youth World Championships in Argentina, the European University Championships as well as Danish First and Second Division matches.