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17.02.2015, 07:30
Mahé walks proudly in his father's steps
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FEATURE: The 23-year-old French international, freshly crowned with the World Championship title, is the next player to feature in the “Rising stars of 2015”-series
 

Mahé walks proudly in his father's steps

When he became world champion in Qatar two weeks ago, one of the first persons French international Kentin Mahé thought of was his dad, Pascal (both pictured right).

In 1995 Mahé’s father was part of the team that won the World Championship; following a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics and silver at the World Championship 1993 this was the first international top podium finish for a French handball team.

"I know there are lots of titles to get, but to repeat what my dad achieved and to win the World Championship was the only thing I wanted to achieve when I was younger," says the 23-year-old.

For the Paris-born centre back, who plays club handball for HSV Hamburg in Germany, the World Championship 2015 was his first major international competition – he had been a substitute at the EHF EURO 2014 in Denmark but eventually did not play.

And winning felt even more special to him, as days before the tournament he was not even sure whether he would be part of the team.

"I've been in the national team for nearly three years now, but I was always the young one left aside before the competition," he says.

"Eventually being part of the 16-player roster this year felt like a reward for all the hard work."

It is his ability to play both on the left wing and the centre back position that proved to be the decisive argument in his favour this time.

"I occasionally played left wing at VfL Gummersbach (he played at the German club from 2011 to 2013), but I haven't played this position for something like three seasons.

"But you have to make concessions to be part of this French team. For sure, I'd like to play in the back court, but for me to play on the left wing and to actually have a role really is enough for me."

If you play for France, you cannot afford to be average

Mahé transferred to Hamburg at the beginning of the 2013/14 season because he wanted to boost his career in the French national team.

But with top stars like Domagoj Duvnjak and Joan Canellas on the same position as him, he spent most of his time on the bench – something, however, he says he used to his advantage.

"I think last season can be seen in two ways. Of course, at first, it was frustrating because apart from a few matches, I didn't quite get my chance.

"But on the other hand, training all season with people like Duvnjak and Canellas makes you grow as a player. This season, I feel like I'm ready to be in charge of the team."

And after becoming a first-choice player with his club, he became a regular fixture in the national team as well.

"But being a part now isn't the end of it," Mahé says. "You have to prove every day that you have something that can help the team. You can't afford to be average.

"You have to be ambitious and you need the will to improve."

He feels that after the World Championship more international success is possible, but it will not just come to him; he will have to fight for it.

"I guess that, the more you eat, the more you're hungry. Now that I've experienced the joy of winning a gold medal, I want to have some more," he says. "But it will only come through hard work. I want this title to only be the start of the adventure.

"I don't feel like I've achieved anything, I want to carry on being part of this wonderful team. Seeing people like Omeyer and Fernandez, still hating defeat at the age of 38, that's the kind of thing that I'm looking up to."

And with the EHF EURO in Poland coming up next year in January, Mahé knows what he has to aim for next.


The rising handball stars of 2015

Part 1: Niko Mindegia (ESP) / Pick Szeged: "I dream of playing at the next EHF EURO"

Photos: Qatar 2015, private


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ts
 
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