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London is the start for handball star Williams
12:30pm Friday 27th July 2012 in Sport
THE 2012 Olympics may only be at the fledgling stage but Great Britain men’s handball playmaker Ciaran Williams is already focusing on future Games.
Team GB are making their first ever appearance at an Olympics on home turf after an intensive programme was set up in 2006 with the intention of building a team for London.
While both the men’s and the women’s teams only qualified thanks to a wildcard from the British Olympic Association, with neither harbouring realistic hopes of medalling, the two sides have made remarkable progress over the last six years and are hoping to ride on the back of an Olympic-driven wave of interest in the sport.
Handball has gone hand in hand with the word legacy for the last couple of years and Williams, whose parents also represented Britain at the sport, hopes to use London 2012 as a springboard for the future.
“We are reminded of that all the time and it’s a responsibility we want,” he said.
“I have been around British Handball all of my life, most of my friends and family are involved with handball so it is something that I am passionate about, especially spending the last year playing in the UK and seeing the growth of the sport and its popularity increase.
“With some credible results at the Olympics who knows what could happen, I’ve said it from day one – handball has something to offer to this country.
“We are the youngest team in the competition, so by Rio I will be 28 which is the peak for a handball player.
“If we have one Olympic cycle under our belt, another four years of a similar programme, and who knows what opportunities might come after the Games that will help us, then I don’t think that reaching Rio is out of the question.
“But 2020 is definitely a target. The work that has gone on in the last six years, we are only going to get stronger, so who knows.”
The men’s preparations have followed a separate path to that of the women as while the women have been centralised in London for the last 15 months, the men have been playing at some of the top clubs around Europe.
And Williams, 24, believes that exposure to top-level handball has stood them in good stead for the showpiece on home soil.
“I spent the first five years of the programme abroad and the other guys are playing in some of the top teams in Europe now so they are getting the games week in week out against some of the best players and experiencing some of the styles of handball we will face in the Games so that is fantastic.
“Obviously the pros of staying together are training every day and building team spirit but the way we have gone of playing competitive handball week in week out is invaluable and a great experience.”