Handball: Olympic adventure over for Team GB


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The Independent Online

The Olympic handball adventure is over for Great Britian's men after defeat to reigning silver medallists Iceland in their final preliminary stage game this afternoon and Ciaran Williams is sad a turbulent six-year journey has come to an end.

Williams, 24, has been a key player in the Team GB squad since its inception in 2006 and has put his life on hold in pursuit of the Olympic dream. He missed out on going to university and, along with many members of the squad, spent nights sleeping on a floor in various outposts of Europe after their development programme was hit by funding cuts.

That has all been justified by their presence at London 2012 and despite a whitewash in Group A, the men have more than played their part in triggering the handball craze that has swept the nation during the Games.

The home support in the Copper Box has been unrelenting and this afternoon's defeat to the Scandinavians, which was coach Dragan Djukic's final game, marked an emotional occasion for Williams.

"I have managed to keep it all in for the other games, but it just came spilling out," he told Press Association Sport. "There was no way I was keeping that in, six years of hard work has come to an end now.

"It's the greatest experience of my life, but also the saddest now saying goodbye to Dragan. That reception at the end there was an absolutely amazing experience."

While Great Britain have endured a torrid affair for the majority of their time on court, there have been some bright spots, none more so than in today's clash where the first half represented their best ever performance before going on to let it slip, eventually losing 41-24.

And Williams enjoyed his London 2012 experience to the maximum.

"It's been everything I hoped it would be and more," he said. "We haven't had the results, a couple of them haven't reflected the game, like that one there, we ran out of steam.

"We have had a very tough tournament, there is no getting away from that.

"That first half was probably the best half of handball we have ever played, so we can be proud of that and the future looks very, very bright for handball in the country and the squad.

"The opening ceremony was amazing, walking out to the crowd in our first game against France was special and the end part of the last game against Iceland was a highlight.

"We have had five losses, played well at times, not so well at other times, but the crowd were on their feet at the end and they could see what we have put into it. That was amazing."

Iceland coach Gudmundur Gudmundsson has given Great Britain optimism for the future as his side prepare for a quarter-final with Hungary.

"The atmosphere in the Copper Box is fantastic," he said. "This is my fifth Olympics and it's the best atmosphere of all.

"It will take time for Britain. They need to learn from others and don't need to reinvent the wheel.

"Handball should suit the British, they can fight and they are good at football and rugby. It can become a good sport for them."