"No trophy ever stilled my hunger for success"Article
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NEW SERIES: Ausra Fridrikas features in the first part of "Legend of the Women’s EHF Champions League" and looks back at 1993/94, the competition’s inaugural season

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"No trophy ever stilled my hunger for success"

The competition’s name was new, but the first trophy holder was already fairly well-known.

When the EHF launched the Women’s EHF Champions League in the 1993/94 season, the first champion was the same that had won the event’s predecessor, the Champions Cup, three times (1989, 1990 and 1992): Hypo Niederösterreich.

Even the first Women’s EHF Champions League Final saw the same teams from the previous season battling for glory: Hypo and Vasas Budapest.

And the Hypo’s star player was the same: Ausra Fridrikas, who is 46 years old these days.

In 1992 the back court ace, born in the Soviet Union, had arrived in Vienna from her home club Egle Vilnius – and eventually won the EHF Champions League seven times (including one title in the Champions Cup).

"I still remember the first Champions League season like it was yesterday, as this competition was brand new, and we were the favourites to win this trophy," Fridrikas says today.

"And winning the first Champions League trophy is still the most memorable title, as it was something new. This trophy gave me wings. It was a major motivation for the upcoming years," the 1999 World Handball Player of the Year says.

Success on all levels

Fridrikas became world champion with the Soviet team in 1990 and after playing for Lithuania she became an Austrian citizen and played for the national team, winning bronze medals at the EHF EURO 1996 and the World Championship 1999 when she was also awarded Most Valuable Player.

But she reached her biggest success on club level, lifting the EHF Champions League trophy in 1994, 1995, 1998, 2000 with Hypo, before she transferred to Danish side Slagelse to become Champions League winner again in 2004 and 2005.

She then returned to Austria and finished her active playing career in 2007.

"Every trophy, but even every victory brings back memories and inspires the personal development of a player," Fridrikas says.

In the 1993/94 finals Hypo took two hotly contested victories against Budapest (20:18, 25:21).

"This first Champions League trophy was the first personal reward for me, it was a boost of adrenaline, but no trophy stilled my hunger for even more success," Fridrikas says, looking back at an impressive tally of overall of 27 domestic titles, including 16 national championships in Austria, Denmark and the Soviet Union.

Today it is her proclaimed aim to share her experiences and attitude with younger handball players. In October 2011 she took over the Austrian youth national team and is currently preparing the U-18 women for the Partille Cup in Gothenburg this summer.

"After this tournament I will start with a new team after I’ve been coaching those girls for nearly two years," she says.

Appreciation for the Women’s EHF FINAL4

At the same time she is the coach of the Austrian Handball Federation’s 'Project 2020', educating youth players to become aspirants for the women’s national team with the clear aim of qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

"The players are talented and motivated, gaining confidence with every international match," she says about her current team.

Of course, she is interested in the development of women’s handball and the current EHF Champions League.

"The speed has increased, but unfortunately the number of mistakes as well compared to the time when I played," is her opinion on the current season. She adds: "Women’s handball needs more strong personalities and role models like we had them in my generation."

But one development Fridrikas really appreciates, the newly launched Women’s EHF FINAL4 in Budapest.

"As a player I would have really looked forward to competing in such an event. Two days and four matches decide everything, no re-match, just 60 minutes twice. No time to prepare or to think."

Photos: EHF, Björn Pazen

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts