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24.11.2015, 14:00
Talent, hard work and mental strength have shaped Mikkel Hansen
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EHF EURO KEY PLAYERS: The Danish back court ace stepped very early out of his father's footprints to develop into one of the best players of all time
 

Talent, hard work and mental strength have shaped Mikkel Hansen

Even though he was born in Prince Hamlet's town Elsinore, Mikkel Hansen has never been someone fancying the famous Shakespeare line "To be or not to be".

The Danish back court ace has never been in doubt about who he was and what he wanted to be, and nowadays as he is at the age of 28, it is certain that he has reached his goals.

Being the son of Danish international Flemming Hansen – a left back like Mikkel himself –, he spent a lot of his childhood in Helsingørhallen, the arena of Elsinore, in the days when the local team was still a top team in Denmark.

However, it was at GOG on the island of Funen, the greatest talent factory in Danish handball for many years, where the young Hansen reached his breakthrough in the Danish league and made his debut in the national team.

It was also back in those days that he was asked by a journalist, what it was like to be the son of such a famous handball player like his father. This just proves how much things have changed in the meantime.

Reputation is not everything

From GOG, he joined FC Barcelona before he had even turned 21, but he already brought some kind of a reputation with him. His amazing winning goal from a free throw after the buzzer against Russia at the Beijing 2008 Olympics had gone around the world.

However, it was still a relatively humble Mikkel Hansen, who moved to the Spanish city in the summer of 2008. Despite his ambitions, he was also conscious about what he could expect and accepted to be somewhat in the shadow of Sharhei Rutenka on the left back.

"When he (Rutenka) plays well, he plays really well, so I am content with playing 40 per cent of the time," he said.

Still, after two years in Barcelona, an offer from Danish powerhouse AG København was too tempting for Hansen, and he went home for two years and then accepted an offer of his current employer, Paris Saint German Handball.

In 2011, he was awarded World Handball of the Year, but in the eyes of Denmark's former national coach Ulrik Wilbek, who worked with Mikkel Hansen from 2008 to 2014 in the national team, Hansen is even better now.

"He is better than ever right now. In my opinion he is the best player in the world these days," Wilbek said recently.

Mikkel Hansen is known to have high demands for himself, but also for the people around him, teammates and coaches alike.

"He can be angry, if he does not find the training good enough. This is due to his own huge handball knowledge, which means that he knows what needs to be trained at what time," Ulrik Wilbek said.

A unique player

It was probably the stint with Barcelona which made Mikkel Hansen realise that talent alone is not enough.

That was the time, when he really started to intensify his physical training.

"Mikkel is unique, not only when it comes to his skills, but also when it comes to his training efforts," says Peter Bredsdorff-Larsen who knows Mikkel Hansen from his time as assistant coach for the Danish national coach, and who also knows Hansen as a player of the opposing side, when he was the head coach of KIF Kolding.

"I know very few players who train as much physically on their own as Mikkel does," says Bredsdorff-Larsen.

"He is not only a great shooter, he is also a highly intelligent shooter who is extremely good at picking the right times to shoot.

"This is not the entire story about Mikkel´s skills, though. His passes are on the same level as his shots these days. His way of making his teammates look good is outstanding, and so is his ability to read the game.

"Never before has Denmark had a player, whose shots and passes had the quality of Mikkel Hansen´s. In these aspects of the game, he is absolutely top of the world," concludes Bredsdorff-Larsen.

Mikkel Hansen has already long ago passed the 120 internationals, his father got, and the number is likely to increase considerably in the years to come.

To quote Shakespeare one more time, there is nothing rotten in the state of Denmark as long as Hansen from Elsinore is performing like he is right now.


TEXT: Peter Bruun / ts
 
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