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Burning ambition drives Ciaran's Olympic dream
2:04pm Tuesday 17th July 2012 in Ciaran Williams
When did you first start playing handball and how did you get in to it?
I first started playing when I was around five-years-old but my mum and dad, Diane Baillie and Colin Williams, both played for Salford Handball Club and Great Britain so I was always watching and supporting them.
Is it true when you went to school nobody really knew what handball was?
When I was at Stubbins Primary School, my mum used to come along and coach our mini handball team. But when I went to Haslingden High School, nobody really knew about the sport. I used to help in PE lessons and since then the sport is on the curriculum at HHS, and it was one of the first in the country to introduce this.
What honours did you win as a youngsters? When did you first represent county/country?
I won the U17s National Championships with Lancashire which was one of my first ever medals. When I was 16, I was selected for the England U21s team which was amazing as I was the youngest member of the squad.
When did you realise that you might be able to compete at the Olympics?
When I heard about the World Class Handball Programme, I was determined to be a part of it. I was one of the first 11 athletes who moved to Denmark when the programme was set up in 2006 –that’s when my focus really became geared towards the Olympics.
What have been the low points – did you ever feel like quitting?
When we had our funding cut that was a huge blow and we felt that the dream could be over. I ended up going to Germany to play and there was six of us sharing a two bedroom flat. The Olympics seemed very distant back then. In 2010, I broke my foot and required two operations and I was out of the sport for 12 months so that was a very low point as well.
How were you actually told you were in the GB squad? Was there an ‘X Factor’ moment?
There was no X Factor moment! Each player went into a private meeting with our head coach, assistant coach and goalkeeper coach and we were informed of their decision.
What are your realistic aims for the Olympics. Do you think handball can capture the imagination?
I truly believe handball can be the legacy sport of the Games. It has everything the UK public loves about sport, and hopefully if the men’s and women’s squads are competitive with the world’s best, it will really inspire the country to get behind handball.
What are you looking forward to the most at the Olympics?
Stepping on to the court at the Copper Box with 7,000 British fans supporting us will be amazing. Also, I’m sure the opening ceremony will be unforgettable.
Which other athlete are you hoping to meet the most?
Ivano Balic who is my favourite handball player of all time, and plays for Croatia – and Ryan Giggs who has been one of my favourite Man Utd players.
What are your aims after the Olympics? Are you hoping there will be a handball legacy in this country?
I will be moving to Norway to play there and live with my girlfriend who is Norwegian. I will return to the UK in the future and hope to help drive the legacy forward and inspire the next generation of handballers.
Finally, tell us about the Olympic sticker of you! Have you managed to find it yet?
I haven’t found it yet and I have bought a few packs but have had no luck. My brother Jake got me in his first pack but won’t swap! I was so surprised to find out I was in the book. I used to collect the Panini football albums as a kid, so to actually be in one is crazy!