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22.05.2018, 09:30
Nantes' giant living childhood dream at FINAL4
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FEATURE: Line player Nicolas Tournat and his team were hoping for the quarter-finals this season but now they find themselves at the summit of Europe's club handball
 

Nantes' giant living childhood dream at FINAL4

He might be two metres tall and weigh more than 110 kilos. But Nicolas Tournat feels like a small child when he talks about going to his first VELUX EHF FINAL4 with HBC Nantes, the club he has played with since he was 18.

“I feel like I am in a dream right now. It is something huge, both for me and for the club,” Tournat says. “It is a childhood dream come true. All the players would dream of going there and I am one of the lucky winners.”

"I have watched them all on TV"

Even though he admits to not knowing what to expect in the LANXESS arena this weekend, he has gathered some information over the years.

“I have watched them all on TV,” he says. “There are moments that come to my mind, like the final between Kielce and Veszprém, or the semi-final with Barcelona and Flensburg. It seems like something special always happens in Cologne.”

Nantes qualifying for the VELUX EHF FINAL4 is something special in itself. The French side are only competing in their second ever Champions League season, and made it all the way through to Cologne after starting their campaign in Group A.

“No one in the team would have seriously told you that we were aiming for Cologne,” Tournat says. “We wanted to have a better result than last season, to make it to the quarter-finals. We have only been playing Champions League for two seasons. It feels like it has almost arrived too soon.”

It has been quite a season for Tournat anyway. He competed in his first major tournament with the French national team at the EHF EURO 2018 in January. And he became Nantes’ second-best top scorer in the VELUX EHF Champions League with 68 goals, a rarity for a line player who doesn’t take the penalties.

It is no surprise that Kielce have already signed him for 2020, but Tournat is trying “not to think too much about that.”

“I just try to be better every day. It seems like things are working well at the moment but the hardest is to stay on top,” he says. “It is just the same for the club: just because we have qualified for Cologne doesn't mean we will be there every time. We will have to work even harder.”

Focus totally on the VELUX EHF FINAL4

For now, his focus is totally on the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2018, where Nantes take on Paris Saint-Germain Handball in the first semi-final on Saturday at 15:15 hrs (live on ehfTV.com).

“Ever since we qualified it has been on the back of our mind,” Tournat says. “Physically, the end of seasons is quite hard because you have been playing non-stop for the last 10 months. This time, it is different, it gives you additional energy.”

Like many of his Nantes teammates, Tournat will discover the LANXESS arena for the first time this weekend: “I know that walking there, with the fans, is going to be nuts.”


TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew
 
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