GB handballers enjoying the spotlight

01 August 2012 / 13:05

Great Britain's handball players are revelling in being part of the handball craze that has swept the nation during the opening few days of the Olympic Games.

The sport, which is massive in continental Europe, was virtually unknown on these shores until Saturday's first day of the competition, when Team GB women's game with Montenegro was watched by close to two million on television.

While the media frenzy which followed has settled down as the preliminary stage approaches its midway point, the interest from an enthralled British public shows no sign of abating, despite poor results for their country in their opening two matches.

Interest in Team GB's progress has been rife on Twitter, with the hashtag #rockthebox, referring to the atmosphere in the impressive Copper Box, regularly trending when the hosts are playing, while handball clubs around the UK have been inundated with enquiries.

Men's playmaker Ciaran Williams has given his life to the sport, missing out on university and painting toilets to chase the Olympic dream, and he had no doubt the sport would indent itself on the public consciousness when the Games began.

"It doesn't come as a surprise, I know what a fantastic game it is," he said. "I have been so passionate about it all of my life.

"It's great to see people getting in touch to say how much they love the game and they have only seen it once.

"There is already so much enthusiasm and positivity and hopefully that will continue, and the sport will grow and grow.

"Everyone is behind us and it gives me goosebumps to think the way the crowd have supported us. I can't thank them enough."

The British support has been unwavering despite defeats for both the men and the women, who formed just six years ago.

And women's pivot Louise Jukes is urging the supporters to stick with them.

"It is amazing that we are part of a the sport becoming big here in Britain," she said. "I just think it is fantastic how everyone is tweeting about it and the #rockthebox thing on Twitter is brilliant.

"Just how everyone keeps cheering right until the end, it is fantastic that they are here supporting us despite the result.

"I have only been playing the sport for five years, where the girls we are playing against have been playing since the age of five so we are along way behind the other nations and it is going to take time to build it up from grass root level.

"But hopefully over the next two Olympics we can start making an impact on the world stage, this is our first tournament and we have only been together for a very short time so there is plenty more to come from us."