Handball: Team GB cleaned toilets and slept on floors in pursuit of Olympic dreams

 

In a true underdog tale, members of Britain's first handball team had to clean toilets and work on building sites so they could compete in the Games after their funding was cut.

Marooned in Denmark after their government grant was cut, players slept on floors to pursue their dream of competing in the London Games.

Great Britain’s men were playing Sweden today, following a gutsy 44-15 defeat to defending champions France in their Olympic debut on Sunday.

Their underdog story began in 2006 in the Danish costal town of Aarhus, where 18 British men over 6ft 3in tall and 12 women over 5ft 11in were on secondment to a top club academy.

The squad were recruited through UK Sport’s Sporting Giants drive to attract tall people to handball, volleyball and rowing for the Olympics.

But in 2009, the Government pulled funding for the project, which had cost nearly £3 million. Sebastian Prieto, 25, who plays right wing, said: “It was very difficult, some chose to leave because they couldn’t take any more.”

Playmaker Ciaran Williams, 24, and pivot Chris McDermott, 23, cleaned lavatories and painted walls so they could continue training. McDermott said: “At the time, my family were about to be evicted (for mortgage arrears). My father was put in the position where there wasn’t enough money to pay the bills and I was abroad so I didn’t have any money to live… He borrowed some money off my grandfather.”

Winger John Pearce, 24, became a painter-decorator for a year before getting a contract as a semi pro in Norway while working from 6am to 8pm as a removal man “in -23C”.

Christopher Mohr worked from 6.30am to 11.30am in a bakery and then went to training. He said: “People were doing anything to get by.”

Williams and several others later secured contracts in Germany but many still scrape a living to play.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones