Louise aims for Olympic handball glory

A FORMER England Under-18 hockey player from Ipswich is aiming for Olympic glory at handball.Louise Jukes, 23, a budding hockey player with National League Premier Division side Old Loughtonians before she made the switch, has been inspired by the Sporting Giants campaign to get involved in handball and now faces the possibility of being included in the Great Britain squad for the 2012 Olympics in London.

A FORMER England Under-18 hockey player from Ipswich is aiming for Olympic glory at handball.

Louise Jukes, 23, a budding hockey player with National League Premier Division side Old Loughtonians before she made the switch, has been inspired by the Sporting Giants campaign to get involved in handball and now faces the possibility of being included in the Great Britain squad for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The campaign, fronted by five-times Olympic champion Sir Steve Redgrave, aims to find taller athletes to compete in such sports as handball, volleyball and rowing, and received almost 5,000 applicants.

“I wanted a new challenge. I didn't feel hockey was going anywhere for me,” said Louise of her switch in sports. “Handball is a much faster game and I wanted to give it a go.”


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For former Holbrook High School and Colchester VI Form College pupil Louise, the process began with an application to British Handball, the body responsible for handball in the UK, to take part in the handball training scheme.

Of the thousands of athletes who entered - none of whom had any previous experience in handball - Louise was among 100 selected for further training.

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After an elimination process, she was then selected for further training camps in Sheffield, Crystal Palace and Leipzig in Germany, and more recently she has also been selected for the Talent Identification programme - meaning further training in Sheffield.

“This aspect of the programme involves using my former skills to improve my handball,” explains Louise. “Because I've only been playing handball for about 30 days, they have to use other skills to train me.”

Surprisingly given its wide following across Europe, handball is not currently a high-profile sport in this country, so Louise, who played hockey for England at under-18 level, is currently looking for funding to support her five-year training scheme ahead of the Olympics.

Because the programme is not only fairly demanding, but takes in periods of training around the country and across Europe, the junior NHS physiotherapist has had to take unpaid leave from her day job in order to live the dream of becoming an Olympic athlete. “I took unpaid leave earlier this year to go through the trials and I'll have to give up my job in January to move to Denmark,” added Louise, whose family live in Patterson Road, Ipswich. “Obviously it's a massive decision.”

Despite the inexperience of the squad as a whole, and the fact that London 2012 - which the side qualify for as hosts - will be the first time a British handball team has competed at an Olympics, Louise rates her side's chances thanks to the togetherness of the squad.

“We'll be training together twice a day for the next five years and I don't think any other side can match that,” she says. “We think we can get in the top eight at least, but what we really want is a medal.”

Louise is looking for funding by local people and businesses to support her training and the cost of moving to Denmark. Anyone interested in sponsoring Louise can contact her by e-mail at louise.jukes@hotmail.co.uk or by phone on 07743 816258.

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