JULY 29 - BRITAIN'S players return to their base in Denmark over the next two weeks to continue their build-up to the 2012 Olympics.
They are looking forward to reaping the benefits of a tough pre-season training camp at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield.
The men have been on a 10-week training camp at the Yorkshire venue, while the women have spent five weeks honing their skills in preparation for the new season out at the GB Academy at Aarhus.
With an emphasis on strength and conditioning, the training camps have left the players fitter and both physically and mentally stronger and ready to take their handball careers to the next level.
“The training camp was great because most of us had specific aims we wanted to achieve,” said Johnnie McAleer.
“For me personally, I wanted to put on five kilos in weight over the ten weeks, and with help from strength coach Dave Parker and nutritionist Mayur Ranchordas I managed to do it.
“It’s been really nice to be back in the UK after such a long time in Denmark, and the facilities at Sheffield are second to none.”
Theo Blossom is one of the players who will be living at the Academy in Denmark for the first time, following a long spell at Sheffield honing his skills.
He said: “Liam Back and myself were already at Sheffield, but our training really stepped up a gear once everybody else came back from Denmark for the ten-week camp.
“We had the squad selections half-way through the camp which was a bit tense, but after they were out of the way we really got down to business.
“For me and Liam, it was almost as if we were training for an individual sport, but once the rest of the squad came back it was great getting to know everyone.
“There was a lot more handball rather than theory, and it was great to be able to put into practice all the skills I had learned.
"I still feel like I’m on a steep learning curve - especially about the tactics - but that’s something that will get better out in Denmark. I can’t wait to get over there and get stuck in.”
Former Bolton Handball Club left-back Ciaran Williams will return to the Academy with the aim of stepping up a level, and has secured a trial with higher-league team BSV, the Silkeborg-based team led by Britain's head coach Carsten Albrektsen.
He said: “We’re all a lot stronger and fitter thanks to the training camp.
"We’re all ready for another season and the main focus now is to step up a level and show how much we’ve improved.
“I’m pleased to have got a place at BSV, and that’s probably down to the training we’ve just done at Sheffield.
"My mental toughness is much better now, and physically I can apply myself a lot more.”
A newcomer to the Aarhus Academy, 18-year-old Laura O’Mahony from Hertfordshire got to know her new team-mates during the Sheffield camp.
She said: “It was really good for me.
"Fitness-wise it was really hard, but I think we all worked together as a team and motivated each other.
"I feel like I’ve known the girls for ages.
“I feel like I’m a much better player after the camp.
"I’ve learned a lot about feinting and I’ve got a better understanding of tactics.
"I’m a lot more used to playing against different kinds of people, and can adapt more.”
As well as Williams having a trial at BSV, Sebastien Prieto and Merlin Braithwaite are both on trial at Skandeborg, while Allan Stokes is trialling at Odder.
Several of the players will play at local league teams, while in the women’s team Lynn McCafferty and Kelsi Fairbrother are both trialling with Horsens.