First the comeback, then a return to CologneArticle
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NEWS FEATURE: Seven months after a severe knee injury, Patrick Wiencek is back as a cornerstone of Kiel’s defence

»EHF CL Channel »2015-16 Men's News

First the comeback, then a return to Cologne

When all his teammates jumped for joy, Patrick Wiencek made his way straight to the hospital.

In October, when his club THW Kiel just had beaten arch rival SG Flensburg-Handewitt in the VELUX EHF Champions League Group Phase, the line player was out after only 15 minutes – torn ACT, with an expected down-time of nine months, so it seemed it was the end of the season for the powerful defensive ace.

Wiencek had to miss the EHF EURO, where his German teammates sensationally made it to the winner’s podium and he missed more than 30 THW Kiel matches. After Dominik Klein and before Rene Toft Hansen it was the second of three torn cruciate ligaments in the THW squad within one year.

But Duisburg-born Wiencek clutched his teeth, fought hard in his rehab – and was supposed to return on court beginning of May in the league match against Lübbecke.

But surprisingly Wiencek was told to be on court earlier – in the matches of the matches, the VELUX EHF Champions League quarter-finals against FC Barcelona. “It was planned in a different way, but I was ready for those clashes,” he says with pride.

More than 10,000 fans in the Sparkassen-Arena-Kiel were stunned when Wiencek appeared on the team list.

And not only there, but straight on the court, building the middle block with Croat Ilija Brozovic. Wiencek: “It was incredible to have a comeback like this.

And finally we all made a dream come true in those matches, the dream of Cologne became reality after all those injury problems we had to face throughout the season.”

“When we travelled to Barcelona we all knew that a five-goal gap is a nice cushion, but we also knew that Barcelona can beat any team by ten goals on home court, so we were aware,”Wiencek says.

Finally the 30:33 was enough to make it to Cologne again. Wiencek arrives at the LANXESS Arena, where he had played with his former club Gummersbach several seasons, and he will play his fourth VELUX EHF FINAL4. “Quite good, isn’t it?,” he says with a smile.

Kiel now is record participant with their sixth appearance, for Wiencek this fact is “quite nice, but it is not about being part of the event, it is about winning it. For four years we have not won the trophy, so hopefully our time has come again.”

In their FINAL4 semi-final, Wiencek and Kiel will face MVM Veszprém – like in the 2014 and 2015 FINAL4 editions. Currently the teams are all square one apiece (1:1).

“We want to make it to the final, we have come to win the trophy, and we can beat any team if we have a perfect day,” says Wiencek full of confidence, but “Veszprém are the clear favourites.

If Aron Palmarsson can conserve his form of the previous weeks, he will be a true leader of his pack and will be hard to stop.”

In the group phase, both sides clashed twice – without Wiencek, Kiel won on home court and were defeated away. “In Cologne we are the underdogs, not only compared to Veszprem, but compared to all contenders. They didn’t have even ten per cent of the injury problems we have had, and they have better squads - mainly PSG and Veszprem,” says Wiencek.

But the line player likes this underdog role: “Though we were the favourites in the 2014 final against Flensburg, we lost. The VELUX EHF FINAL4 is very special, so special that the underdogs can win and favourites can lose, the past has proven this fact.”

After missing the domestic title in Bundesliga and cup, the VELUX EHF FINAL4 is the last chance for THW to win a trophy this season – or finish it without a title for the first time since 2003.

“This is not motivating us,” says Wiencek. “Just by looking, how often we needed to change our team due to long-term injuries, it is a great result to be part of the VELUX EHF FINAL4. So even if we do not win the trophy in the LANXESS Arena, this season is definitely not a disappointment,” says Wiencek.

His dream even goes further than Cologne, but the line player is a very humble character: “My first dream was to have a big comeback and to play on the same level as before. My second one was to go to Cologne, and of course Olympic Games are a dream.

"But our national team coach Dagur Sigurdsson has a team that works, and this is proven by their EHF EURO gold medal. I dream of making it to Rio, but in the end this is a decision I cannot make. I will do everything I can to try and snatch a ticket to Rio.”

TEXT: Björn Pazen / bc