Kristopans: “Impossible to take it for granted”
Dainis Kristopans will be one of the three winners of the last EHF Champions League trophy present in Cologne at the VELUX EHF FINAL4 2020.
While Rogerio Moraes and Daniil Shishkarev now wear Veszprém’s jersey, the giant Latvian has been playing for Paris Saint-Germain since the summer. And he cannot wait to get back to LANXESS arena.
“I think the 2019 win with Vardar was the highest point in my career so far. Some might talk about EUROs or World Championships, but to me, the Champions League is even higher, because it is about winning a whole season, not being the best over three weeks,” explains the PSG back.
Kristopans’ move, from North Macedonia to the French capital city (with a quick pit stop in Berlin) was motivated by the presence of Raul Gonzalez in Paris. Kristopans worked with the Spanish technician for a season in Skopje, in 2017/18, and it changed the way he thought about handball. “I thought I knew handball before knowing him. But at my first training with Vardar, I felt like I knew nothing. He taught me handball again,” smiles Kristopans.
After arriving in Paris last summer, to his own admission, the Latvian’s early games with his new team left some room for improvement. “I felt like I put a lot of pressure on my shoulders, and I can improve myself. But I train hard every day to do so. Even though the systems are the same with coach Raul, the players are different, so I need some time to adapt,” says the 30-year-old.
Kristopans will not need to adapt to LANXESS arena though, as he has been there with Vardar for the last two editions of the VELUX EHF Champions League. And while you might think that the excitement this time around is not as high as it was for his first experience, Kristopans is very much looking forward to the event.
“I’m even more excited every year. The FINAL4 is always a special date for a handball player. All the best clubs and the best players are there for a weekend. It’s impossible to take it for granted.”
In the semi-final on Monday, Paris will battle with Barça for a place in the final. Kristopans, thanks to his winning experience from 2019, teaches us the tricks to lift the trophy: “You have to enjoy yourself, first and foremost. You have to keep focus for 60 minutes and remain in your game no matter what happens.”
The 215 cm left hander gives us insight regarding Paris’ opponent: “Barça have crazy statistics in the Champions League, so it’s an extra motivation for us to play such a great team. But in Cologne, it’s no use to talk about favourites, as every year, the predictions always come out wrong.”
One thing will be different for Kristopans when he enters the court on Monday, compared to his previous visits. Kristopans recently became a dad, and while you might think he might find an extra motivation in such a happy event, he tries not to let emotions get in the way. “For sure, I have a little bit more love in my heart, but on the court, I try not to think about that and only focus on handball. For sure, my son makes me a happier man, but I try to keep him away from my thoughts when I’m on the court – I could have too many emotions in my head.”
Returning to the EHF FINAL4 is not exactly the same old story for Kristopans, then.