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Date: 5/12/2019
 

Already the record holder for most IHF World Handball Player of the Year awards, Cristina Neagu extended her grip on the title when she was named the recipient for the fourth time. Neagu added the 2018 title to her awards from 2010, 2015 and 2016 following an outstanding year – even by her high standards.
 
“I’m actually really happy and proud to achieve something like that. That’s amazing not only for me, but for the entire Romanian sport. It’s not something that someone can achieve every day,” Neagu told ihf.info after receiving the award. “I’m really proud of this achievement, especially coming in this hard moment for me, recovering again from another injury. It gives me more motivation to keep going.”
 
In May 2018, Neagu claimed the Women’s EHF Champions League top scorer crown for the second time in her career, after scoring 110 goals during the season. She won the Champions League bronze medal with her club, CSM Bucuresti and was named the All-star Team left back for the fourth year in a row.
 
In December, she led Romania in a European championship campaign that saw them return to the semi-finals for the first time since 2010. During the EHF EURO 2018, she broke the all-time top scoring record in the continental championship, and now leads that ranking with 237 goals – and, importantly, no end to her career in sight.
 
Positive and confident in the recovery process
 
In the final main round match at the EURO, Neagu suffered an injury that sidelined her for the rest of the season. She says she will likely be back on court over the summer and hopes to be ready to play for the start of next season in September.
 
“I’m actually doing really well. I’m really positive and confident in the process,” says Neagu, who is very quick to answer when asked if she ever doubted her return to the court. “Not in any second. I’ve been through this before so right now I have the experience of another serious injury. I had the cruciate ligaments in my other knee as well a few years ago, so this time I took everything very positive.”
 
For Neagu, one key of returning to the court is the handball fans, to whom she is extremely grateful for the ongoing support.
 
“I’m really happy because I can see that a lot of people love me and they love the way I play handball and they support me every time they have the chance, so I can only say thank you to them. Hopefully I will be back on the court and play at the highest level so they can enjoy it together with me again,” says the left back.
 
“For me the most important or one of the most important things is to make the fans happy because they are the ones coming there, filling the halls and so on, so it’s really important that they also feel good.”
 
“A big hope that we can be in the top at the World Championship”
 
Neagu’s major goal remains to win a title with the national team – something she is yet to experience, though she holds two bronze medals, won at the 2015 World Championship and the EHF EURO 2010. Following their strong performance at the European championship in December, Neagu hopes Romania are on the cusp of something great at the upcoming Women’s World Championship in December.
 
“It’s now the most important tournament before the Olympic Games, so probably the pressure will be even bigger because we all want to qualify for Tokyo. That’s the main objective for us. But of course I’m always looking forward to the big competitions and I always have in my mind when I go to these competitions that I want to win a medal and that I want to win the gold medal,” says Neagu, before commenting on the current form of the team in the context of the EURO.
 
“We were pretty close now, being fourth, so for sure we have the power to be there in the top. It’s also about having a good day, having a good tournament. It’s about consistency also. It’s about many things. But I think we have a good team, a team that can achieve big things.
 
“It’s a good moment to try to be there in the top and this will be a double achievement: play for a medal and also qualification to Tokyo. I’m looking forward to that and I have a big hope that we can be in the top at the World Championship.”
 
Photo: EHF

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