Summer dream could soon become a reality for Louise Jukes

The end of a long, arduous road could represent the beginning of a glorious summer for Ipswich handball star, Louise Jukes.

The former England Under-18 hockey player returned from a January training camp in France with hamstring and back problems and has been sidelined ever since.

However, the 28-year old is almost fully fit and itching to return to the Great Britain fray as she attempts to book her place in Jesper Holmris’ 14-woman squad for the Olympic Games in London.

Jukes, who will miss out on a trip to Holland tomorrow with the rest of the GB squad, as she continues her rehabilitation, hopes to impress in European Championship games at home to Montenegro on May 30 and away in Russia four days later.

“I have got one more injection to have and then hopefully I will be back to 100 per cent,” said Jukes, speaking from the Great Britain team’s Crystal Palace base on Thursday.

“There are some friendly matches on the horizon and two European qualifiers so I hope to be playing in them and be well back on track for when the squad is announced on June 19th.”

Injury came at the most unfortunate of times for Jukes who performed well individually as Great Britain finished sixth in the London Handball Cup at the Olympic Park in November, a tournament that saw the hosts surprise African champions Angola with a 22-20 win.

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Jukes then scored seven times in the two further games against the Africans, in France, but was soon ruled out after “waking up with leg and back pain”.

“Five months is a long time to be out, especially as I have only been playing the sport for five years, but the coaches are pleased with my progress and I feel I am coming back stronger,” said Jukes.

“I am still in line to get in the GB squad and it is fantastic to be back. I am going to make every second count.

“It’s been an up and down time for me and, although I am based at Crystal Palace with the rest of the girls six days a week, it has been tough watching them train and play, not being able to take any part and wondering if someone is going to take my position.”

Jukes will be an interested observer on May 30 when the draw for the men’s and women’s Olympic handball tournament is made.

The team will not be expected to win but have made great strides since being set up towards the end of 2007, following a competition that searched for individual talent for the Olympics.

“I have noticed the improvement of the players during my time on the sidelines,” said Jukes, who, if selected, will be competing in her first Olympics, as will the GB Olympics team.

“The team is so much better than it was and that is because the players have been together (at Crystal Palace) for over a year.

“While we might not be the best individual players, we are very good as a team, working together, and hopefully that will continue at the Olympics.”

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