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20.10.2016, 10:30◄ last page     

INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: Mikkel Hansen feels great in his fifth season in Paris and is looking forward to playing in Denmark for the first time after winning the Olympic Gold.

Hansen ready for a great afternoon in Herning

Mikkel Hansen, awarded World Handball Player of the Year twice, is enjoying the challenging training environment in Paris Saint-Germain Handball and to play in the possibly strongest VELUX EHF Champions League group ever.

He has been Spanish, Danish and French champion. He has been European champion and Olympic champion, so the only titles he is still missing, are World champion and winning the VELUX EHF Champions League.

He has the chance to take both the missing titles this season, though.

This coming Sunday, the day after his 29th birthday, Hansen who was born in Hamlet’s town Helsingør, will be playing in Denmark for the first time after winning the Olympic gold in Rio with the Danish national team.

Against Bjerringbro-Silkeborg, he will be on away court in Jyske Bank Boxen in Herning, which has been a home court for him in several big matches in the past.

ehfCL.com: On Sunday you are visiting Denmark to play Danish champions Bjerringbro-Silkeborg. This will be your first appearance in Denmark after you won the Olympic gold in Rio. What will that be like for you, do you think?

Mikkel Hansen: First of all, I hope it will be a great event with a great atmosphere. The atmosphere is usually great in Jyske Bank Boxen, and I hope I will be received well, of course. From what I have heard, the ticket sale has been going really well, so I am sure it will be a great afternoon.

ehfCL.com: What do you think of your team’s Champions League season so far?

Mikkel Hansen: I think it has been generally okay. A one-goal defeat away to Kiel was not what we were expecting, of course, and I think one point there would have been fair. Apart from this, we have done what we should, I think.

ehfCL.com: Your team has undergone some changes compared to last season, like most teams in the Champions League have. Among others, you have got Uwe Gensheimer on the left wing and Luka Stepancic in the right back. How would you rate your team compared to last season?

Mikkel Hansen: We are probably a bit stronger, and that is probably necessary in a group like the one we are in. However, it is really hard to say yet how good we actually are, as we did not have as much time to prepare for the season, as we would have liked. Yet, that is the way it is in an Olympic year. We had not trained much together, when we went to Qatar to play the Super Globe, and shortly after that, the Champions League season started. That did not give us much time to integrate our new players.

ehfCL.com: Was this also part of the explanation for your defeat in Kiel?

Mikkel Hansen: Part of the explanation maybe. However, Kiel are a fine team, against whom you can lose any time, especially on their home court. As I said, I think one point there would have been fair, but we have moved on from that game long ago.

ehfCL.com: You already mentioned your tough group. Many people have called Group A of the VELUX EHF Champions League this season the toughest Champions League group ever. How do you see the group?

Mikkel Hansen: I agree completely with the people who consider it the toughest group yet. It is really almost all the best teams in Europe who are gathered there. However, that’s what makes it fun. Playing against the best teams and the best players every week is really great, and it is games like that which make you better.

ehfCL.com: By winning the group, you can skip the Last 16 and proceed directly to the quarter-final. Are you in PSG going particularly after the first place in order to reduce your number of matches a bit?

Mikkel Hansen: I think all teams do that. Skipping two matches and going directly to the quarter-final does not only reduce an already tight match schedule, but it also brings you one step closer to the VELUX EHF FINAL4.

ehfCL.com: Personally, you have been in the FINAL4 three times before. In 2010, you were second with Barcelona, in 2012 and last season, you were third with AG Kobenhavn and PSG. How do you rate your chances to finally reach the top?

Mikkel Hansen: I am obviously keen on going all the way this time, but the road is very long. First, we have to qualify for the FINAL4, and that way will be long enough as it is.

ehfCL.com: You are playing your fifth consecutive season in PSG. You seem to feel well in Paris?

Mikkel Hansen: Who would not feel well, playing and training with some of the best players in the world every day?
I really like the training environment here, being put to the test by the two coaches (Zvonimir Serdarusic and Staffan Olssen) daily. It’s really cool.

ehfCL.com: Speaking of the best players in the world, when Nikola Karabatic joined PSG from FC Barcelona last year, he explained that playing with you was part of his reason for making that change. What does such a statement mean to you?

Mikkel Hansen: Of course, it meant a lot to me – and Karabatic joining our team has meant a lot to the team and to me.
Playing alongside him is really great, and not only is he a fantastic player. He is also a great guy.

ehfCL.com: Feeling so well in Paris could it mean that this is your final destination in your career?

Mikkel Hansen. Who can tell what the future brings? A lot of things can happen, so it is really too early to say.
All I can say is that for the time being, I feel fine playing in one of the strongest clubs in the world, and that is what matters right now.

TEXT: Peter Brunn / bc

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