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GB handball players to return to London in 2011

By Nick Hope
Olympic Sports Reporter

GB Handball
British Handball 'coming home' in 2011

British handball players, currently competing across Europe, look set to return home in 2011.

A new deal will see the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre become GB's first UK High Performance Centre.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for us to train together on home-soil ahead of the London Olympics," said GB women's captain Lynn McCafferty.

Most players are expected to move after the completion of the 2010/11 handball season in May next year.

The deal links-up British Handball with both Greenwich Leisure (GLL) and Olympia Handball Club and will see a sharing of resources and facilities in Crystal Palace.

"This partnership provides a real choice for our athletes to train and compete in high performance environment not presently available to GB players in the UK," said British Handball chief executive Paul Goodwin.

Great Britain launched a national training centre in 2007 which saw the men's and women's team re-locate to Denmark, however it was closed in early 2009 after UK Sport cut their budget and that of seven other Olympic sports.

The decision meant players could no longer be funded on a full-time basis, so those who wanted to continue in the sport were forced to search for professional contracts at clubs across the continent.

Meet Lynn and Gary McCafferty, 'Mr and Mrs Handball'

Lynn McCafferty moved to Norway, before transferring to Italy and now plays for Danish side Hadsten.

She is excited about the potential of the announcement, but her journey to date has made her a little cautious.

"To have us based in London a full year before the Olympics is very important, however in the last four-and-a-half years I have learned the hard way not to put all my eggs in the one basket.

Its a great and fantastic step for us 'if' it happens but there is still over six months until that is a reality and who knows what may happen in that time," added McCafferty.

Money is still an issue for GB Handball, with UK Sport allowances already set aside for training camps and future competitions.

The deal with Greenwich Leisure (GLL) and Olympia Handball Club provides no additional funds, and athletes who decide to locate themselves at the centre are expected to be self-sufficient.

Coming home makes it feel more real and like an Olympics is actually going to happen!

Lynn McCafferty, GB Captain

This means they will be expected to find some form of employment to finance their living costs, whilst training full-time for the 2012 Olympics.

GLL say they will work with their partners to secure athletes' qualifications, work placements and employment across the region, but it remains to be seen whether this is an option which will appeal to GB players, given most currently earn their entire income from playing handball in professional leagues around Europe.

"Coming home makes it feel more real and like an Olympics is actually going to happen," McCafferty told BBC Sport.

"Financially I am 100% sure that it will be personally easier for me and some of the others. But of course some of the players contracts they have just now are attractive and maybe it will be a difficult adjustment.

But the agreement just released by British Handball is a massive step forward and a positive boost," said McCafferty.

With the exception of basketball, whose governing body (Fiba) want assurances over their legacy plans post-2012, Great Britain are entitled to 'host' places in all other Olympic sports.

Kelsi Fairbrother helps GB women win 4 Nations bronze

Leading Olympic sports in which Great Britain have stand-out performers such as athletics, cycling and swimming, will have competitors who qualify outright.

However, some of the lower-profile, less-established team sports such as handball and the various disciplines of volleyball are unlikely to do so.

Their inclusion will be decided by the British Olympic Association (BOA) who have a strict criteria which teams must meet if they are to be given guaranteed places at the London Olympics.

* Olympic sport governing bodies must prove that they have made 'credible performance milestones' and are delivering 'credible performances'. In essence this means that they must be competing at an elite level (at European / World Championships), or are able to demonstrate significant improvements in terms of results in the build up to 2012.

* There must be a 'legacy plan' for post-2012. Governing bodies must show how they plan to use the platform of the London Games to take the sport forward; both in terms of the 2016 Games in Rio and attracting young people to the sport.

Talks between the BOA and the relevant sport governing bodies are set to begin later this month, with an announcement due around March 2011.


In what appears to be a direct attempt to tackle the second of these criteria British Handball hope you utilise a link-up with the London-based Olympia team, who will share the facilities in Crystal Palace, to develop new talent.

"This is the first phase of Project Homecoming where the players will be brought together in London ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games," said Goodwin.

"We aim to have our under-21 team based there and develop youngsters, (which is where Olympia come in). This is a real example of Olympic legacy, as the centre will provide for new British Handball talent to take us beyond 2012".

GB men claim first ever competitive win, beating Bulgaria 33-32 in Crystal Palace

From a performance point of view both the men's and women's team have made progress since they were formed in 2006.

The men recorded their first competitive victory in June this year and the U21's who include many of the senior squad will be looking to build on that during their World Championships qualifiers in January.

McCafferty's team meanwhile won the 2008 4 Nations competition in Sheffield, before achieving an impressive two-leg victory over Finland in late 2009, which booked their place in the European Championships qualifiers.

They found those against the likes of Austria and former world champions France tough going, losing all of their group matches.

However, they beat Italy in this year's '4 Nations' competition to claim a bronze medal in Liverpool and still to come before Christmas are the World Championship qualifiers in Poland.

There, in addition to the hosts, they will also face higher ranked opponents in the form of Austria, Cyprus and Slovakia.

"This will be our toughest challenge to date, both physically and mentally.

"We're working hard and gaining experience as a team all the time, hopefully this will be another benchmark."

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see also
GB handballer inspired by mother & 2012
29 Sep 10 |  Handball
GB women suffer defeat by Swiss
25 Sep 10 |  Handball
Jubilant scenes after historic GB win
13 Jun 10 |  Handball
GB men's Euro qualifying bid ends
11 Jun 10 |  Handball

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