The British Olympic Association (BOA) has announced today the 14 male handball players that will represent Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Handball made its Olympic debut in 1936, but has only been a regular fixture at the Games since 1972. Team GB has taken the opportunity to use the home nation allocation to enter their first ever handball teams and, following the announcement two weeks ago of their female counterparts, both the men and women’s squads are now selected to make their Olympic debuts in London.
The 14 athletes selected to Team GB today are (age, hometown):
Bob White (captain)
CLICK HERE to view athlete profiles
In addition to the 14 athletes, the British Handball Association have also named 20-year-old Nicholas Satchwell as their reserve, as well as another four backroom staff led by head coach Dragan Djukic.
The British Handball Association launched its performance programme in 2006, the year after the Games were awarded to London, as the English and Scottish associations combined to prepare teams ready for Olympic action.
The sport is relatively unfamiliar in Britain – but it has made great strides in catching up with its European neighbours during the past few years, with a Sport England survey last year showing almost a six-fold increase in participation in just three years. Presently, more men play handball than both rugby and hockey across Europe.
The rise in popularity of the sport across Britain has reflected the progress that the country’s elite have made on the international stage. The Team GB men have secured some notable results recently including defeating Italy and Bulgaria, and only narrowly missed out on a victory in April against handball powerhouse South Korea in London, as part of the Pinsent Masons’ Cup.
The squad will be under no illusions as to the difficulty of the task that lies ahead. Their first fixture is against reigning Olympic champions France, before meeting Sweden, Argentina, Tunisia and Beijing’s silver-medallists Iceland in their pool. Team GB will be aiming to produce competitive and credible performances across their fixtures, and targeting a few victories to earn a place in the top four of their pool to qualify for the knock-out stages.
The two pools of six nations will compete in a round robin format at the Copper Box in the Olympic Park. The four best placed countries in each pool will qualify for the knock-out stage, which will relocate to be contested at the Basketball Arena with the gold-medal match scheduled for August 12th, the final day of the London 2012 Games.
The addition of the men’s handball players brings the total number of athletes officially selected to compete for Team GB at London 2012 to 431 across 32 sport disciplines: archery, athletics – marathon, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoe slalom, canoe sprint, cycling, diving, equestrian – dressage, equestrian – eventing, equestrian – jumping, fencing, football – men, football – women, handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing, shooting, swimming, synchronised swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball – beach, volleyball – indoor, water polo, weightlifting and wrestling.
Team GB Chef de Mission Andy Hunt said:
“It gives me great pleasure to welcome the men’s handball team into Team GB for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
“As yet, there is no great tradition of handball on these shores but I am sure that the crowd at the Copper Box will soon see why handball is the second-most played sport across the whole of Europe. The increase in numbers of participants at all levels in the past few years is absolutely phenomenal; it’s an exciting time for the sport in this country and we have the opportunity to build a lasting legacy for future generations.
“These men will go down in British Olympic history as our very first representatives in handball, and hopefully paving the way for a bright future for Team GB in the sport. This is another massive milestone, and the collective work of the players and the coaches means that we have a very competitive squad that we believe can produce some inspirational performances in London this summer. “
Head Coach Dragan Djukic said:
“It was the hardest decision in my life, because our players have invested the last six years of their lives in the GB programme, but the situation that we have a chance up to the quarter-final to change injured players, with any player from the long list, gave us the chance to reward the 15 players who invested the most over this period.
“In the end, the best 15 (14+1) are selected and now it is time for concentration and to add the final touches for the start of the Olympic Tournament and the opening game against World and Olympic Champions France.”
Mark Hawkins said:
“It is an absolute honour to be selected to the GB Men's Handball team for the 2012 Olympic Games. Words can't describe the feeling, it is the peak of any athlete’s career and it is a privilege to be able to compete on that stage on home soil. Everybody in the squad has worked unbelievably hard to get us to this point and will continue to do so to ensure we give our best possible performance in London.”
Chris McDermott said:
“For me this selection means the world. I joined the handball program in 2006 and since then there have been so many ups and downs, but this makes all the nights sleeping on floors or couches so worthwhile!
“To actually make it all the way and be selected for the Olympic Games was the best feeling in the world. However that is not to say the hard work is over, we are still in Serbia training at 100 per cent because we know the challenge that lies ahead of us won't be easy. Our official target is a top eight finish and if we can make that, great, but at this stage we need to be more focused the performance aspect of the games.”