LONDON 2012: Cautious Holmris has high hopes for Olympics and beyond
BRITISH handball coach Jesper Holmris believes the sport is well placed not to squander the legacy of their involvement at next year's London 2012 Olympics.
HIGH HOPES: Women's coach Jesper Holmris is upbeat about the future of British Handball - not just for next year's Olympics but also on the road to Rio
Dane Holmris knows that if world rankings dictated qualifiers, the hosts would be watching from the sidelines but he remains determined to take advantage of the opportunity.
World champions Russia were comfortable winners in last weekend's Euro 2012 qualifier but Holmris took confidence from restricting their scoring and keeping the scoreline down to an eight goal deficit.
Some in the sport believe not enough is being done to strengthen the grassroots of the game in the UK, claiming clubs are not well equipped to deal with any sudden surge of interest following the Olympics.
However, others paint a different picture and Holmris - whose team has been criticised, if a little unfairly, for attempting to draft in import players rather than home-raised talent - agrees progress is encouraging.
We have had a chance to play the best nations in the world, so we know exactly where we are. I really hope we can continue a lot of the good things we've done in the last few years after the Olympics. I have a good feeling about where the sport could be heading in the UK."
Jesper Holmris, British Handball women's coach
"There is a place for handball in British sport, it's fast and dynamic but it’s also violent - it's great to play and watch," he said.
"I really hope we can continue a lot of the good things we've done in the last few years after the Olympics.
"I have a good feeling about where the sport could be heading in the UK."
But Holmris claims a strong schools participation programme is not enough to leverage involvement at London 2012 - insisting the national team must continue to rise through the rankings before that talent makes an impact.
British men's goalkeeper and captain Bobby White is one of those who have graduated from the Tall and Talented and Sporting Giants campaigns, which aims to take athletes whose ambitions have faded in one sport and reignite them in another.
But with Russia boosting a significant height advantage in Crystal Palace last weekend, Holmris believes more work needs to be done.
"We still need to find good athletes and start training them," he said.
"We’ve started a talent squad here in Crystal Palace and I hope that will be successful.
"I know England and Scotland handball are doing a fantastic job in the schools but that will take many, many years. We have to do something in between and that’s where I think we can inspire youngsters to try handball.
"We’re already involved in Tall and Talented and Sporting Giants campaign but we haven’t found a lot of girls through it because we had the centralised programme running from Denmark at the time."
The next challenge for Holmris and his squad is a six-team invitational tournament at the new £44 million Olympic handball arena next month, part of the London Prepares Series of Games test events.
On paper, he believes they stand a good chance of success against Austria, Angola, China, Poland and Slovakia - which would certainly add credence to his stretch target of a quarter-final finish in 12-team Olympic tournament a few months later.
"We have had a chance to play the best nations in the world, so we know exactly where we are," he added.
"We can't play the top nations the whole time. We have to play other sides where we can get a win, we mix it up from the very best to a lower level.
"So far only us and Brazil, Norway and South Korea have qualified. After the worlds we will know our likely opponents and we'll start organising our run-in to the Olympics then."
© Sportsbeat 2011