From “Olympic couch potato” to handball court heroArticle
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INTERVIEW: German captain Uwe Gensheimer has watched previous Olympics only on TV, but as he leads his team to Rio 2016 he hopes to return with a medal

From “Olympic couch potato” to handball court hero

Rio 2016 will be the first Olympic Games for Uwe Gensheimer. The national team captain, who missed Germany’s gold performance at the EHF EURO 2016 in Poland due to an injury, is pumped with adrenaline as his anticipation and his hopes are huge.

And the next challenge is only around the corner as the long-time Rhein-Neckar Löwen left wing starts a new career chapter at Paris Saint-Germain Handball with the beginning of the 2016/17 season. It was Mannheim, now it’s Rio, then it’s Paris. The upcoming weeks and months are full of challenges for you. Are you ready to take them on?
Uwe Gensheimer: Mannheim, Rio, Paris sounds really good, but currently my focus is entirely on the Olympic Games. The move to Paris will follow at end of August – my wife is in full control in terms of the preparations. It’s not that easy to find a flat there. Sidelined with an Achilles injury, you were not able to play at the EHF EURO. Were you nevertheless sure all the time you would get nominated for the Olympic Games?
Uwe Gensheimer: I always hoped for it, and I’m truly happy that I go. But being the captain of this team, I also feel with those, who are not on the list.  You did not want to swap with your coach Dagur Sigurdsson who was only able to nominate 14 players?
Uwe Gensheimer: Definitely not! Personally, I cannot understand the squads’ size at Olympic Games. Maybe the Olympic Village is too small for handball players.  When you returned to the team, what had changed after it had won EHF EURO gold?
Uwe Gensheimer: The players were the same, but I could feel that their confidence had increased. I hope we can to carry this confidence all the way to Rio, even though the final test matches have proven that it’s impossible to reach anything by just being the European champions. You need to deliver the same power, belief and strength in every match. Looking ahead to Rio: What do you know about the Olympic Village, the playing venues and the Games themselves?
Uwe Gensheimer: To be honest, I know our playing schedule. I did not go deep into the matter of what to expect at Rio. I’m really eager to see everything, but our focus is on handball, nothing else. But becoming an Olympian has always been one of your major goals?
Uwe Gensheimer: Indeed. And we are up for something really huge there. It’s the first time for all of us, so it’s really thrilling. Only coach Dagur Sigurdsson and our team manager Oliver Roggisch have been there before. Has the team set out a goal for Rio?
Uwe Gensheimer: What we did at the EHF EURO, was taking it step by step. Hence it is our first goal to qualify for the quarter-finals and with Poland, Sweden, Slovenia, Brazil and Egypt as group phase opponents this is not that easy. Little things will decide. At the EURO, we won three matches by just one goal. At Rio, it might happen that we lose three matches by one goal. We are confident enough to say that we play for a medal, no matter the colour. However, when it comes to knockout matches, everything can happen.  Your own confidence should be at the very top as you ended your last season at Rhein-Neckar Löwen by winning the German national championship.
Uwe Gensheimer: I accomplished that one mission, now new missions are ahead for me. The Olympic Games are on another level. They are something like the highlight of my career. For me, it is not about seeing as much as you can see in the Olympic Village or in other competitions, but just about focussing on the next match. Although our anticipation is huge, we will try not to get distracted by anything else.

The Olympic Games only happen every four years. Is that what them so very special?
Uwe Gensheimer: This cycle is one part, the other one is the significance of winning a medal. If you win a medal at an EHF EURO or at World Championships – regardless in which sport – you will never forget it. Olympic medals are even more special. A EURO is harder to play and to win, but in terms of significance Olympic Games are worth more.

So far you only followed Olympic Games on TV. What are your favourite Olympic sports besides handball?
Uwe Gensheimer: Basketball, hockey, athletics. In the end, you watch everything when you are as sports addicted as I am. You stay in front of the TV all day.

Photos: Sascha Klahn /

TEXT: Björn Pazen / ts