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Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Monday, 18 February 2008

GB get to grips with handball

By Piers Newbery

Huw Goodwin
Goodwin has been based in Denmark since August

Giving up your career, moving to Denmark and dedicating the next five years of your life to handball is a brave move by anyone's standards. Especially if you're British.

As a handball international you do not risk being mobbed in the streets or harassed by paparazzi - you will struggle to find anyone who even knows the rules. You don't do this for the glamour.

But in a little over six months' time, Beijing will be done and dusted and attention will turn to London 2012, and the host nation needs to be represented across all the sports.

This is where Huw Goodwin comes in.

The 25-year-old from Aylesbury has been living in Denmark since August with more than 20 compatriots as part of the British Handball Olympic Development Programme.

The plan for 2012 is to develop men's and women's teams that can compete at world-class level - at the very least.

"It's not acceptable just to turn up and get beaten," Goodwin tells BBC Sport. "Acceptable would be to be competitive and hopefully compete for medals.

Age: 25
From: Aylesbury
Lives: Aarhus, Denmark
Height: 6ft 1in
Weight: 13st 8lb
Teams: TMS (Danish Div 3), GB

"I know a lot of people might say that's impossible and we get some negative press sometimes, even back home, and we're not immune from that. We just do have a desire to show what we can do."

Goodwin played rugby league for England students and then at a semi-professional level in France before returning to the UK and looking for work.

It was during this job search that he stumbled upon an advertisement for potential handball players and, in November 2006, he was asked to go for a trial.

"I kept everything quiet at first and didn't tell anyone in case I didn't get through, because I thought they'd take the mickey out of me," says Goodwin.

"Then an article in The Times came out and everyone knew - friends, family, work - and there was lots of banter, people asking me 'what's handball?' In fact, they've all been very supportive."


Despite working in psychology at an eating disorder hospital in Edinburgh, the offer of a contract with the British Handball World Class Development in June grabbed Goodwin and eight months on he is based in Aarhus.

"We're staying at a sports high school which has 135 students, including the British," says Goodwin. "It's a mini campus with sports halls and facilities. We all dine together and share rooms with team-mates."

The days start with breakfast at 7.15am and include several hours of on-court handball training, plus game-analysis coaching, conditioning and even some Danish lessons. Goodwin is also studying for a PhD in compulsive exercising and eating disorders.

"There is no down time and it can be 100%, 24/7," says Goodwin. "That's the nature of elite sport I suppose but having other students here can be good, it can take your mind off it."

Goodwin arrived in August but in the New Year a new batch of hopefuls arrived following the well-publicised Sporting Giants programme last year, which was effectively a sporting talent contest for unusually tall people.

Olympic men's - Croatia
Olympic women's - Denmark
World men's - Germany
World women's - Russia
European men's - Denmark
European women's - Norway

There are currently 17 British men and seven women based in Aarhus, 12 men based in Sheffield and 15 women at centres around the UK, and a further seven men who were already playing at clubs in Germany and Denmark before the programme started.

Funding of around 1m per year from UK Sport is in place until March 2009 and talent ID trials continue around the country.

The plan is nothing if not bold, but how realistic is it to develop two world-class teams from scratch in under five years?

"It's going to be a big ask but we have the best coaching and facilities," says Goodwin. "Some of the Danes have said we're the most professional handball side in Denmark, and this is the strongest country in the world at the moment.

"Everything is in place and we're making progress every year."

He adds: "It's good coming from outside the sport because there's no fear factor.

People can say 'Germany are fantastic' but to me they're just another team, I don't really understand the history of who's who.

"The attitude is 'I don't care who they are.' We're here to win and have no respect for what they have achieved. I want to compete for medals and if possible, the gold.

"You have to dream otherwise there's no point in being here."

And with Beijing a matter of months away, Olympic fever is starting to take hold.

"When Beijing is on TV I'll be hoping I can be there next time and hoping we can be competitive," he says.

"There is also the realisation that we've got so much to do in a short space of time. Sometimes it can seem a long way off but we keep being told that after Beijing, when the focus is on London, there will be lots more focus on us.

"The time will go past quickly but Beijing will be a motivating factor."

Huw Goodwin is among the British athletes BBC Sport will be following during the countdown to London 2012.

see also
Team GB for Beijing
29 Nov 07 |  Team GB

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