HORSHAM handball player Mark Hawkins says the shackles are off now Great Britain’s place at the London 2012 Olympics has been assured.
In the week Olympics tickets went on sale to the public, the 25-year-old former Tanbridge House pupil said he believes the GB squad can play without fear in front of home crowds.
In January, the British Olympic Association confirmed they would be granting both the men’s and the women’s handball teams a place at London 2012 – a decision that was thrown into jeopardy not so long ago. Handball was one of eight sports to receive a sizeable cut due to a £50m black hole in funding.
That ensured that British Handball were forced to close their national training centre in Aarhus, Denmark, where Hawkins plays for HK Aarhus Nord, and base their top players on the continent with the aim of earning professional contracts.
It was a strategy forced upon British Handball but it has not been without success as last summer Great Britain chalked up their first ever competitive victory over Bulgaria and followed that up with an impressive victory over Italy.
British Handball performance director Lorraine Brown has also said that a top-eight finish in the 12-team London 2012 competitions should be both teams’ goal – no mean feat judging by the calibre of opposition coupled with Great Britain’s lack of Olympic experience.
“It has been good since we found out we had been awarded a host nations place back in January and I think it has been a huge weight off everyone’s minds,” he said.
“There is no pressure hanging over our heads and we now no longer need to impress anyone and can just go out there and concentrate on our own game.
“These next 500 days should go a bit quicker now.”