"I simply need to get stronger"Article
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RISING STARS OF 2015: Viktor Östlund reckons increased physical strength is what he needs to be a complete handball player

»EHF Euro Events Channel »2014-15 Men's News

"I simply need to get stronger"

When Kim Ekdahl du Rietz decided to say goodbye to the Swedish national team, it signaled a chance for Viktor Östlund to step up and make a name for himself.

Sweden were in need of cover in the left back position and the 23-year-old Eskilstuna player was viewed as the solution.

Having only made his debut in the EHF EURO 2016 qualifiers last October, he is still very new in the national team, but with his 11 caps for the national team so far he has already shown himself to be a worthy member of the team.

He enjoyed a breakthrough of sorts at the World Championship in Qatar this January, where Sweden reached the Last 16 stage thanks in part to a series of fine performances from Östlund, who celebrated his 23rd birthday during the championship.

“Of course, it gave me a lot to play that much, and I have to thank Staffan and Ola (national coaches Staffan Olsson and Ola Lindgren) for having put that much faith in me,” a modest Östlund tells ehf-euro.com.

Right now, he is also gaining international experience with his club team, Eskilstuna Guif, with whom he has reached the quarter-finals of the EHF Cup. Top scoring for his team with 45 goals so far in the tournament, he has made a huge contribution to the Swedish club’s success in Europe.

“Of course, the EHF Cup gives me some experience and helps me develop as a handball player to meet some stronger opposition than we do in the Swedish Elitserie.

“Therefore, it is great that we have come so far this year and have had so many matches in that competition,” says the 198 cm tall back court player who joined Eskilstuna from league colleagues Skanela in the summer of 2013.

“Joining Eskilstuna was a natural step in my development, and I feel I have actually developed month by month while being here,” he says.

Poland trip far from certain

The way things look right now, Viktor Östlund and the rest of the Swedish team are on steady course towards the Men’s EHF EURO 2016 in Poland next January.

“Tre Kronor” are on top of Qualification Group 3 after ten-goal wins against Latvia and Slovakia, but the next two tasks may be more serious.

On 29. April and 2. May, Slovenia who also have won their first two matches, will be awaiting the Swedes, first in Sweden, then in Slovenia.

“Of course, they will be tough matches. Slovenia are a strong team, but we seem to be pretty certain of qualification anyway. Of course, I hope I can make my mark in those matches too,” says Östlund, who hopes to play in Poland in January next year, but who does not dare to get ahead of himself yet.

“Playing at the World Championship has obviously given me an appetite for more championships, and it would really mean a lot to me to play at the EURO next year as well.

“I am pretty sure Sweden will qualify, but I cannot be sure I’ll be part of the team for the final tournament yet. I got my chance due to injury in the left back position and a lot of things can happen between now and January,” says Östlund, who is not in doubt about his strongest assets as a handball player.

“They would be my shot and my understanding of the game, my ability to read it,” he says, admitting at once that he also has shortcomings as well.

“First and foremost, I will need some more physical strength, some more kilos,” says the player who weighs 90 kilos now.

Maybe that additional physical strength and those extra kilos will be what he needs to reach the level of his idols.

“My idols are Nikola Karabatic and Mikkel Hansen. They are both complete handball players, and Karabatic in particular is a great defensive player as well,” finds Viktor Östlund, to whom playing in Eskilstuna and the Swedish league is not enough on a long-term basis.

“My ambition is to play for a club on a somewhat higher level somewhere in Europe.

“A club in the Bundesliga would be an obvious choice, as it is by far the strongest league in the world, so proving myself there would be a really great and interesting challenge to me.

“Apart from this, it is my ambition to become a regular in the national team and to be successful with Sweden,” concludes Östlund.

The rising handball stars of 2015

Part 1: Niko Mindegia (ESP) / Pick Szeged: "I dream of playing at the next EHF EURO"

Part 2: Kentin Mahé (FRA) / HSV Hamburg: Walking proudly in his father's steps

Part 3: Sander Sagosen (NOR) / Aalborg Handball: "I want to be the best in the world"

Part 4: Nikola Bilyk (AUT) / Fivers WAT Margareten: "Dreaming of becoming handball's Michael Jordan"

Part 5: Michal Szyba (POL) / Gorenje Velenje: A 'watchmaker' on his way to the peak

Part 6: Michal Kasal (CZE) / Futebol Clube do Porto: A new Jicha on the horizon

Part 7: Nikola Portner (SUI) / Kadetten Schaffhausen: A new ambassador for Swiss handball

Part 8: Dario Polman (NED) / Targos Bevo HC: Like brother, like sister

Part 9: Filip Ivic (CRO) / PPD Zagreb: A ‘Zagreb kid’ dreams of winning the EHF Champions League

Part 10: Dejan Malinovic (BIH) / US Creteil: Dejan Malinovic is ready for the big splash

Part 11: Paul Drux (GER) / Füchse Berlin: Drux moves from village to capital, rises from zero to hero

Part 12: Vuko Borozan (MNE) / TuS N-Lübbecke: "Everything in my career happened so fast"

Part 13: Drasko Nenadic (SRB) / SG Flensburg-Handewitt: Handball runs through family's veins

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cor