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Page last updated at 16:25 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 17:25 UK

Handball hopeful pushes for 2012

Josh Hampson and Bill Bailie
Josh Hampson (left) and Great Britain performance coach Bill Bailie

"London 2012 is my ultimate goal." Manchester handball player Josh Hampson is an aspiring Olympic athlete and has set his sights high in this explosive and action-packed sport.

Despite the sport being largely unrecognised in Britain, the International Handball Federation represents 155 member countries, 800,000 teams and 19 million players, with countries such as Denmark offering six figure salaries to play professionally.

Handball is also becoming more popular in Africa and Asian countries and is expected to take off in Oceania soon.

But that could soon change. With particular interest around the London 2012 Olympics, there is a big push for an increase in participation as various projects have been set up in Britain for the advancement of the sport in terms of playing, coaching and refereeing.

There is also the chance for youngsters to experience playing abroad at training camps like the one set up at Aarhus in Denmark.

Handball may have a low profile in Britain, but the north west is quite a hotbed with around 20 clubs, and Rawtenstall acts as the home of the English Handball Association.

Haslingden Handball Club is where Josh Hampson plays. He has his sights set on competing at future Olympics, with the London games his first target.

He is only 17 and still playing as an amateur but his training schedule remains fairly busy.

He told BBC Radio Manchester: "Since I'm aiming for London 2012 they try to get you to do at least 12 hours of exercise a week and with college it can be quite difficult to fit in."

His schedule on a training day usually consists of an hour of aerobic or weight training followed by an hour of handball specific training with coach Bill Bailie.

France Handball Team
France New Men's Olympic Champions

In addition to this, Hampson recently found time to take a trip to Denmark for the training camp in Aarhus, and is hoping his experiences there will help him on his quest for 2012.

"Playing any sport every day, twice a day is always going to be good for development," he said. "The camp has definitely helped me and given me a bigger picture of what I could be doing in the future."

Hampson, who started playing handball about seven years ago and has not looked back since, thinks the sport can progress and become much more mainstream.

"Everybody who I know has seen it says its good to watch, entertaining and a very quick sport. If handball is given more coverage I think it can catch on and then more people will enjoy it."

One of the men charged with helping youngsters like Hampson develop into top players is GB Performance coach Bill Bailie.

Despite having no intentions of going into coaching at the end of his playing career, Bailie has continued to aid in the development of youngsters hoping for an Olympic chance.

He says the projects that have been set up have the potential to succeed does not think they are working as well as they could.

"I think the structures are working in some areas but the problem we have concerns manpower," cited Bailie.

"The key to it is to create good coaching structures to attract and keep people in the game.

"One of the ideas we have come up with is that we put them through Danish coaching courses so if they're not successful as a player and don't get kept on the program we have a permanent workforce upon their return to Britain."

Handball is often referred to as the 'ultimate sport', the name coming about because of the many skills and attributes a player must have.

Handball facts
The ancient Greek game of Urania shows similar features to the modern game
Modern handball first played at the end of 19th Century
The countries responsible for the introduction of handball to the world are Denmark, Germany and Sweden
Olympic sport since 1936
Voted Best Sport at 2000 Sydney Olympics
Second fastest Team Sport in the World
Could be described as a cross between basketball and football with the aim to throw the ball into a net
The sport needs, power and skill in addition to agility and plenty of teamwork as well as drawing on skills used in basketball, rugby, water polo and football.

On top of these skills, Bailie also has to look for youngsters with good fitness.

He explained: "We have had a lot of problems with young players when we increase their volume of throwing so we have to look for good strong shoulders, upper body strength and explosive power."

Although handball does get poor media coverage, Bailie thinks this is a by-product of poor performances in the Olympics and other international tournaments.

"It's a vicious circle," Bailie told BBC Radio Manchester. "The last time Britain indoor team sport qualified for an Olympic games was 1936 and so there's no real experience to these team sports.

"If we're talking about a legacy after 2012, the biggest impact you're going to have is if you have successful team sports.

"If the football team win the World Cup, football goes through the roof in the UK and success would bring the same for any of the team sports."

Olympics venues map

BBC Sport's Olympic map

Find out about the Beijing gymnastics and handball venue

Handball medals table

Sunday, 24 August 2008 10:17 UK
Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze TOTAL
1 also show each event results forFrance 1 0 0 1
Men 1 0 0
2 also show each event results forNorway 1 0 0 1
Women 1 0 0
3 also show each event results forIceland 0 1 0 1
Men 0 1 0
4 also show each event results forRussia 0 1 0 1
Women 0 1 0
5 also show each event results forSouth Korea 0 0 1 1
Women 0 0 1
6 also show each event results forSpain 0 0 1 1
Men 0 0 1

see also
BBC Olympics blog
15 Aug 08 |  Olympics
Beijing 2008
14 Feb 08 |  Olympics
Mike Bushell's guide to handball
30 Apr 07 |  Handball

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