Gjekstad: Results have come faster than we could have hopedArticle
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INTERVIEW: Head coach of Vipers Kristiansand Ole Gustav Gjekstad is a bit surprised that his team have made it to the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 as soon as this season
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Gjekstad: Results have come faster than we could have hoped

“We have made good results in the Champions League faster than we could have hoped.” These words come from Vipers Kristiansand coach Ole Gustav Gjekstad when discussing his team’s performance this season, which has seen the Norwegian champions qualify for the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 for the first time in history.

Last season, Vipers made their debut in the Women’s EHF Champions League and also became Norwegian champions for the first time ever, so it is pretty easy to see why Gjekstad thinks things have progressed faster than expected.

51-year-old Gjekstad, who played 149 internationals for Norway in his days on court, was not a part of Vipers when they won their first Norwegian championship last year. After three years away from handball, he took the helm from Kenneth Gabrielsen at the start of the current season.

One of his last assignments before this three-year break was taking another Norwegian team, Larvik, to the Women’s EHF FINAL4 and second place in 2015.

After four years, he will see Budapest again – this time in charge of Vipers.

A pleasure to be back

“I had been working with insurance for three years in an organisation with 300 employees. I wanted to come back to a place where I had more influence on the outcome, and I found Vipers to have the right people in the team as well as in the administration,” explains Gjekstad, who does not conceal the fact that he is happy to be working in handball again.

“It has been a pleasure to come back. I am happy to be in a club with an offensive approach, and one that shares my thoughts on development.

“The players have responded very well to the changes I have made, and I am really happy to work with them. We have been achieving great results in the Champions League sooner than we could allow ourselves to hope for, so the season has been one big upturn.”

Safe defending and good goalkeeping the key

Even though he seems a bit surprised that his team have done so well this season, Gjekstad has no doubt what the keys to their success have been.

“We have managed to establish relatively safe and secure defensive play along with good goalkeeping. At the same time, we have been working with a faith that ‘anything is possible’ and that we are capable of defeating any opponent,” says Gjekstad. “That is the attitude we have to bring with us into the FINAL4.” 

Gjekstad knows that taking part in the DELO WOMEN’S EHF FINAL4 will be of great value to the club, no matter how things turn out in Papp Laszlo Arena on 11 and 12 May. 

“Playing the FINAL4 means a lot to us all. Before the start of the season, most of the people in the club probably did not believe this to be possible.

“Now, several hundred of our supporters will be travelling to Budapest to be part of the party, and that is going to be a great experience for everyone,” he predicts.

Lessons from defeats

Being the experienced coach he is, Gjekstad realises that, as debutants at the FINAL4, his team will take on the role of underdogs – not least as their semi-final opponents will be none other than back-to-back champions Györi Audi ETO KC.

Vipers have already met Györ twice this season, as the teams were in the same main round group. In the two main round matches, Györ won 33:29 at home in Audi Arena and 33:26 in Kristiansand’s Aquarama. 

“Of course, Györ are big favourites against us. We take the role as the challengers, and you can rest assured that we are going to prepare well,” says Gjekstad. 

“I hope we have learned from the two matches we lost against Györ in the main round. However, no matter what the result against Györ, we will obviously also be aiming to win our Sunday match.”

TEXT: Peter Bruun / cg