Handball set to flourish in Britain after Olympics
A minor sport in Great Britain, handball looks set to become more popular after the 2012 Olympic Games in London when fans discover just how entertaining the game is, British star Jane Mayes told ehf-euro.com in an exclusive interview.
Mayes, a 23-year old goalkeeper who broke into the national team in May 2007, was looking forward to Britain’s EHF EURO 2012 qualifying double header against Poland with the first match being played in Loughborough on Thursday. The British team lost their opening two games against Group 3 favourites Montenegro and Russia but played well, especially in last October’s 24-16 home loss to the Russians, who are former World Champions.
"It is a very good experience to play against top teams as both Russia and Montenegro have very good players. It’s hard to beat them but the objective is to learn as much as possible from games like that and keep improving," Mayes said.
"We have to get the best out of such encounters and duels with players like Montenegro’s Bojana Popovic and Maja Savic, so that we can keep building and be more competitive one day. Poland are also a very good team, they have excellent backcourt players and strong defence, so we have to stop them from scoring easy goals on fast breaks," she added.
It will not be the first time Great Britain have played Poland.
Poland made the most of home advantage in their first encounter in qualifying for the 2010 World Championships and ran out 32-17 winners. But after a year later, when the two sides met again in a friendly tournament in Turkey, the margin of victory was much closer, with Poland winning 21-19.
Britain geared up for this week's EHF EURO 2012 double header with a training session alongside world champions Norway behind closed doors on Monday, and Mayes readily admitted just how valuable it was to her team.
"We have learned so much from just training with Norway, they are the world champions and that says everything about their quality and what we took home from practicing with them," she pointed out.
With Britain qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics automatically as the host nation, Mayes is also excited about the prospect of playing against the likes of Norway and other top teams in a major tournament.
"This is a unique opportunity for us to be on the big stage at this point in time, and we hope that playing at home can help us perform to the best of our abilities. We don’t know yet which teams will be in our group but in any case it will be a strong one and we want to be very competitive. We are all very excited," she stressed.
As part of their build-up to the Olympics, the British team visited several schools in November to promote handball and Mayes revealed the pupils thrived on learning about a new sport.
"They really enjoyed it and immediately wanted to know more about handball, hence why I think the Olympic Games will be a perfect springboard for the game in Britain and that people will want to start playing and watching it," she said. "Also it is a great honour that some of my team mates have been selected to carry the Olympic Torch in the run-up to the Games."
The Olympic Torch for London 2012 will be carried for 8,000 miles, covering the length and breadth of Great Britain. Four members of the Great Britain teams will get to carry the Torch for a short distance - Holly Lam-Moores, Lynn McCafferty, Ciaran Williams and Mark Hawkins - while some British Handball volunteers will also take part alongside thousands of members of the public as the flame makes its way to the Olympic Arena in time for the opening ceremony on July 27.
TEXT: Zoran Milosavljevic