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Katalin Pálinger – ‘It is not a “job” when you work in handball’

Bela Müller / cor

Katalin Pálinger – ‘It is not a “job” when you work in handball’

Pursuing a life in handball was not the easiest choice for Katalin Pálinger, who proved to have talent for both sports and music.

However, going down the handball route proved to be the correct decision as Katalin Pálinger turned out to be one of the sport’s goalkeeping greats.

“I have never regretted choosing to become a handball player. I can only be grateful to my first coach and mentor Kálmán Róth as he showed me the basics and much more.”

After spending almost two decades at the highest level, Pálinger retired with a wealth of medals from the highest level.

For Hungary, she won an EHF EURO gold medal from 2000, alongside two bronzes (1998, 2004), silver from the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, when Denmark came back in the last fifteen minutes to snatch gold, as well as silver and bronze medals from the World Championships in 2003 and 2005.

However, the list does not stop there as ‘Gin’ also enjoyed plenty of success at club level with two silver medals from the EHF Champions League, another from the EHF Cup and a plethora of domestic league and cup trophies.

“It is not easy to choose my favourite moment as we won the EURO once, played in the finals at the Olympics and in a World Championship.

“These are all treasured moments in my life. I might say, my last match in a Győr jersey and last in my career, when we won the Hungarian League in 2012 after I saved a penalty shot in the final seconds is at the top of the list.”

There are always ups and downs in a professional’s life. Sometimes you win, sometimes you fail on the court, but losing somebody is the toughest.

Anita Kulcsár, Hungarian national team line player, who was Pálinger’s teammate in Győr and in Dunaferr, died in a car accident in January 2005.

“It is still very hard to talk about the nadir of my career. When Anita Kulcsár had a fatal accident, it was very hard to go back and practice again. The death of Kulcsi highlighted what were the most important things in my life.”

Katalin always planned ahead. So, when she retired, it was clear what comes next.

“After the very last final whistle, I felt happiness. I did everything I wanted to, so I could focus on a new challenge: to start a family. I am still very glad that it happened so quickly.”

Think out of the box

Pálinger has never really left the handball world. Now, she takes different roles in the Hungarian Olympic Committee, in the Hungarian Handball Federation and at Győri Audi ETO KC.

Despite all of Pálinger’s duties, family remains in first place.

“I could never really think at any of these positions as a ‘job’ as I work in the game I love most. Obviously, my family is the most important and as my daughter Szofi begins primary school, she would be happy to schedule my time,” she says with a smile.  

Since 2012, the former EHF EURO champion has seen many contemporaries end their career. Not everybody is prepared for the lifestyle which follows active playing years, but Pálinger was outstanding in this area as well, which makes her an ideal role model for the EHF’s ‘Handball Inspires Generations’ campaign.

Although there is improvement among the players who are over their zenith in planning ahead, she has an advice to those who are not prepared yet.

“As players become more mature and experienced, ideally while they can still perform at the highest level on the court, also think about their future.

“I think this is the most crucial and therefore I personally recommend to think out of the box as an athlete’s career will not last forever.”

“Besides that, to be successful in our beloved sport, I would suggest to the youngsters to be diligent, dedicated and always keep their eyes open as well as focus on small details on and off the court.”

Budapest the women’s handball capital

In 2019, there are plenty of opportunities for men as well as for women in handball to continue what their predecessors started. Hungarian clubs and the national team are among the best at all levels. However, the central European country wants to show its power in gender equality.

“I think, it is still a little bit harder for a woman to show their potential as a sports leader or as a coach than for a man.

“However, the Hungarian Handball Federation is one of the best examples to be followed as, besides me as Vice-President, Gabriella Horváth is the Secretary General and part of the EHF Executive Committee.

“We work hard every day to provide everything that is needed for a successful team. As the hosts of the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4, having victorious Champions League clubs and organising one of the strongest domestic leagues, I think we can say Budapest is the capital of women’s handball, so it might be easier to stand out.

“However, as I mentioned earlier, diligence and dedication are most important.”

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