Reflections on the women's Olympic Qualification Tournament

Post published May 1, 2024 (Updated May 10, 2024)

It's been almost two weeks since the excitement of receiving a wildcard from the IHF for the senior women's squad to join the Olympic Qualification Tournament in Hungary. Head coach Mark Hawkins and captain Marta Tubacka reflect on their experiences.

Mark Hawkins

"It was a real shock to get the invite to replace Cameroon at such short notice, and I can imagine an unenviable position for the IHF to be in as well. For us, it was especially short notice because we had less than 24 hours to canvas availability, confirm our position, and fly out! We had only just returned home from our training camp in Portugal! It was an amazing opportunity that couldn't be missed, and real credit to the players that were willing and able to drop everything at a moment's notice and travel to Hungary. Not to mention the staff that travelled, those that worked behind the scenes, and the board to all make it happen."

"When we got to Hungary, the reception there was great, in the arena and from the organisers. The players with their positive attitude earnt a lot of support from the local fans in the arena."

"Being able to play the games at this level was a huge jump, and should be used as a huge development opportunity for the players. To be on court and feel the quality needed to play at that level amongst the best players in the world was invaluable. On a team level, it's very similar, it was a real opportunity to see if we are heading in the right direction and where we need to adapt the plans to be effective against this class of opposition."

"Whether we as a team and individually will be able to manage to positively use this opportunity will tell over the coming months and upcoming camps, and how the players go back to their clubs and react to what they faced. In all I was incredibly proud of the way the team wanted to take the challenge and how they applied themselves."

Marta Tubacka

"The whole last minute invitation to Olympic Qualifiers was a shock to everybody as we did not even dream about such an opportunity. I am very proud of the team for dropping everything in their lives and assembling to go to Hungary in just 24 hours. In this place I would like to say a massive thank you to all coaching staff, managers and everybody else working hard behind the scenes to make this journey possible."

"We were very excited to hear this news nevertheless once we got 'go ahead' we started to realise who we were playing against and what a difficult challenge was in front of us. As a team, we knew this was one of the lifetime opportunities that you do not say no to, no matter what the final outcome would be."

"Going to such a prestigious tournament knowing to be much less experienced than Hungary, Sweden or Japan and having no expectations at all should help with pressure - but it does not work that way - we were super excited but also very concerned about what others will say."

"Once we got there, to the hotel, we were amazed how great and professional everything was. Hotel, organisation, food, transport and other facilities. We were treated on the same professional level as other teams there."

"Before the first match we had mixed feelings, as we were playing against our idols, the professionals who we watch on TV. The whole 3 games were difficult as there is a clear difference in the level of speed, game knowledge and experience. Despite losing all games 30+ we were never more proud. We came to every game and fought with all our hearts. I think it helped that a couple of us had similar experience from Turkey when we played World Champs Qualifiers - it helped us manage pressure and our expectations, as well as keep the team together."

"The majority of the GB women's team is made from very young players. They are very talented and hard working individuals which are just becoming a very united team. The opportunity we were given in Hungary had such a huge impact on our team and I believe will make the team develop quicker. This amazing bunch of girls are worth putting time and money in their development."

"We are forever grateful for this opportunity , it definitely brought us closer together and allowed us to create unforgettable memories.

A special thanks to the Hungarian crowd who are amazing supporters and all to all of our friends, families who supported us from home."