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30.09.2014, 12:20
From handball star to poker ace
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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Kjersti Grini talks to ehf-euro.com about winning the first Women's EHF EURO for Norway in 1998 and why she changed from handball to a different sport altogether
 

From handball star to poker ace

When Norway won their first international title in women’s handball, the EHF EURO 1998 in the Netherlands, it was an enormous breakthrough for Norwegian women’s handball on the international stage which Norway was going to dominate for many years to follow.

"Of course, it meant a lot to us after having tried so many years in vain to win either the World Championship or the European championship," says Kjersti Grini today.

She was one of Norway’s most outstanding players at the championship that saw them go all the way until the final in which they defeated ruling champions Denmark no less than 24:16 in front of 3,300 spectators in the Amsterdam Arena.

On the final day it had also been announced the Grini was named as best right back into the tournament’s all-star team.

In the semi-final the Norwegian women had beaten by an incredible margin of 14 goals, 28:14.

"That championship meant so much to us, because it showed us that we could do it. That it was possible.

"I think one of the reasons for our success at that particular championship was the fact that we got some new young players into our team, and they did not have the same kind of respect for our opponents which us older players might have had,” says Grini, who was 27 back then.

"We had a very good team in those years, but as we had several injuries ahead of that championship, nothing really indicated that it should be our year.

"However, apart from being very talented, those young players added some lack of respect to our team which was good for us.

"There is no doubt that the title meant a tremendous boost to women’s handball in Norway, and that it became the basis for so many title for Norway in the years that followed.”

Riding this wave, Norway extended their dominance and won the World Championship 1999, more or less exactly one year after they had become European champions.

Grini played for another three years and eventually ended her active career in 2002. With 1003 goals she scored in 201 matches, she is still the leading scorer of all times in Norway’s women’s national team.

Success elsewhere

However, these days she does not have a lot to do with handball.

"I may do a little commentating on TV from time to time, but apart from that I am not doing anything handball related these days, and frankly, I do not miss it," she confesses.

Instead of focussing on handball she took on a sport that seems at first glance very much out of the way - she became a professional poker player.

"I have always played a lot of cards ever since I’ve been a kid, as we played cards in my family very often, so I actually grew up with it.

"I also played a lot of cards in my spare time as a handball player, not only poker, but also other card games," she says.

The experience obviously helped. The Global Poker Index lists Grini’s earnings at more than $12,000 US – however things have changed again for her.

"I'm not playing poker all that much anymore. I still like to play once in a while, but only as a hobby for me these days," she explains.

"Now I work as a team leader at a company which crushes stone. That is a very male dominated environment,", she says, laughing in a way which indicated that she does not mind that at all.

Following Norway

Even though she is not directly involved in handball for the time being, Grini is still looking forward to watching Norway’s national team at the EHF EURO 2014 in Hungary and Croatia this December, and she crosses her fingers for a new great era to begin in Norwegian women’s handball.

"I’m not exactly up to date which teams are strong and which are not at the moment, but I obviously hope for a comeback to the top for Norway. 

"I know our girls are working really well, and I’m sure that we will see Norway competing at the top of a championship once again. And I am definitely looking forward to following them in December," says Kjersti Grini.


The countdown clock to the Women's EHF EURO 2014 continues to tick down - as of the middle of October there will be a mere 50 days to go.

While the participating teams and its star players start getting in shape for the final tournament, we use the opportunity to look back at the stars from yesterday. The players that stood and occasionally still stand for success at the previous EHF EURO events.

Throwing-off this 'Where are they now?'-series is Norwegian right back Kjersti Grini who played an instrumental part at the EHF EURO 1998 in the Netherlands.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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