Ayglon-Saurina: “I’m still the girl next door when I go through town”Article
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FEATURE: Staying at the top of her sport for over a decade is only one of the reasons why French standout Camille Ayglon-Saurina earns to be featured in the EHF ‘Handball Inspires Generations’ campaign

»Other News Channel »2018-19 Women's News

Ayglon-Saurina: “I’m still the girl next door when I go through town”

When she was a little girl starting to play handball, Camille Ayglon-Saurina never thought she would have such a career in the sport. Born in Avignon, in the south of France, she signed her first professional contract at age 18, and that did come a little bit as a surprise to her.

“I started handball without exactly knowing what it was. I just went with a couple of my friends,” she says. “The coach then thought I was good at it and kind of encouraged me to carry on playing.”

15 years ago, things “were different” in women’s handball

And the thought of becoming professional was still far from her mind a few years later. Especially in women’s handball, 15 years ago “things were different. You couldn’t live from handball. The first professional contracts were something like 150 euros a month. You had to have a job on the side to make a living.”

But things got on and from Nîmes, the right back moved to Metz Handball, discovered the Women’s EHF Champions League, moved back to Nîmes before travelling to Romania for two seasons, reaching the competition’s EHF FINAL4 twice with CSM Bucuresti.

And while her club career has been quite a success, she also achieved a couple of successes with the French national team, too. And not some minor ones, with last year’s world title as an evident highlight.

Change of popularity

While women’s handball was still low key when she started, Ayglon-Saurina has witnessed the change of popularity her and her team mates have been going through in the past years.

“A lot of people come to us, saying that the image we carry and the values we show on the court are things they can link to. We’ve got people at the airport when we fly back home, it’s really nice, and we’ve definitely seen things growing with the last results,” she says.

Does she mean that she can’t walk downtown anymore?

“Definitely not! I’m not too worried. I know that I’m still the girl next door when I go through town.”

The pressure of the fans is something Ayglon-Saurina has learnt to cope with as years went on. But there is a new person who is now expecting her to come back home with a medal: her son.

“Every time I’ve come back from a competition, I had a medal. He started to understand things as we had a little bit more success,” she says with a smile. “So he’s already told me that he doesn’t want me to come back empty-handed after the EURO. I have no right to fail.”

Her role in the team will be somewhat different

Having already played at the World Championship 2007 at home with France, Ayglon-Saurina knows a little bit what to expect at the forthcoming EHF EURO 2018.

“I was 22, so I had stars in my eyes. To play in a sold-out Bercy arena back then was really something special for the women’s national team. I remember the bus on Paris’ ring road going to the quarter-final, with police escort, feeling like we were a football team. The atmosphere was crazy,” she remembers.

Now she expects the fans to be as present in the arenas as 11 years ago, but her role in the team will be somehow different. She once was the young player discovering the very high level, she now will try to guide her younger teammates through the danger of a competition on home soil.

“We can’t allow to look around, read the press, discuss with everyone. We have to remain focused on ourselves,” Ayglon-Saurina says. “The preliminary round will be very tough. Russia are a strong team, Anna Sen should be back, a lot of them play together in Rostov, they’re a very serious opponent. Montenegro are very physical and Slovenia have given us a lot of trouble lately. We’ll have to be ready from day one, because any lost point in Nancy would be a huge loss for the rest of the competition.”

TEXT: Kevin Domas / ew