Mark hopes Olympic heroics will inspire new handball players

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Horsham’s Olympian Mark Hawkins says he’s been overwhelmed by the support the GB handball team has received in their first Games.

And he believes the unprecedented levels of interest London 2012 has generated could see handball grow into a major sport in the UK.

“The whole thing has just been absolutely incredible,” Hawkins said of his first Olympic Games. “The atmosphere inside the Copper Box from start to finish has been phenomenal, even when GB haven’t been playing. Even when we’ve been losing heavily the amount of support has been breath-taking, it’s just been a dream come true.”

London 2012 has seen GB enter both a men’s and women’s handball team for the first time. Although both failed to make it out of the pool stages, losing every game, the buzz created around the sport during the Games has been enormous, raising hopes that a real legacy has been created.

The UK has only played the sport for around six years, compared to countries where handball is considered a national sport.

“We knew people would love it when they saw it but I heard 2million people tuned in to watch us play Sweden which is amazing,” Hawkins said. “I’ve had so many messages from family, friends and people all over Sussex, when the matches are on my Twitter goes mad.

“Just being part of Team GB has been an exceptional experience, the emphasis has been on being one team and it’s incredible how well we’ve done.”

On Tuesday Team GB reached an incredible 22 Gold medals, surpassing the tally in Beijing and racking up the most amount of medals for more than 100 years. London 2012 has been a marvellous spectacle and Team GB has a number of other Gold medal hopes.

Sadly neither the men’s or women’s handball teams got close to winning a medal as both lost all their games in their group stage.

But having only been formed in 2006 both sides take great credit for their displays in a constantly packed Copper Box and Hawkins will savour every minute of the unique experience. “We are really pleased with how we performed. The first-half against Iceland, a team who are competing for the medals, we really had them on the ropes.

“And against France, in the first 20 minutes we competed well and those two competed the final at the last Olympics.

“We’ve had so many people say ‘hey, you can really play this game’ and considering our team only formed a few years ago that’s a great thing to take from the whole thing.”

Hawkins hopes many of the millions watching their games will be inspired enough to take up the exciting sport, and he called for funding to continue after London 2012.