02 Mar. 2022
The IHF are pleased to announce the nominees for the 2021 IHF World Coach of the Year – Female team(s), with the shortlist being decided by a pool of experts, who earmarked the top coaches in women’s handball in 2021.
The winners of the two major international tournaments, the IHF Women’s World Championship and the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are on the shortlist, while two more coaches who led the way in women’s club handball made the cut. Finally, another coach, who shares duties between a club and a national team is also on the list, after surprising in 2021.
Ole Gustav Gjekstad – Vipers Kristiansand
Despite playing only two games on their home court during the 2020/21 DELO EHF Champions League season, Vipers Kristiansand produced one of the best runs in the history of the European premium club competition to seal their first-ever title and Norway’s second, after Larvik HK did so 10 years ago.
A former player, who donned the national team shirt 149 times in his career, Gjekstad orchestrated a superb run in the knock-out phase of the competition, securing four wins in the last six games on their way to the trophy, including a magnificent run in the DELO EHF FINAL4. Vipers took a 33:30 victory against CSKA Moscow in the semi-finals, while totally dominating Brest Bretagne Handball in the final, with a 34:28 win. It was Gjekstad’s first European trophy in his career, capping off an amazing 2021 for Norwegian handball.
Thorir Hergeirsson – Norway
The 57-year-old ace has been the head coach of Norway women’s national team since 2009, amassing 13 medals in major tournaments during his stewardship of the Scandinavian powerhouse. 2021 has been another resounding success for Norway, as they won their fourth IHF Women’s World Championship – three with Hergeirsson at the helm – and the seventh medal at the Olympic Games, bronze at Tokyo 2020.
During 2021, Norway lost only one competitive match, the Olympic semi-final against the ROC team (26:27), winning the IHF Women’s World Championship for the first time without dropping a game, with eight wins and one draw. One of the greatest handball minds to ever coach in women’s handball, Hergeirsson cemented his legacy in 2021 and will hope to snatch another prestigious title.
Jesper Jensen – Denmark / Team Esbjerg
Denmark were always a powerhouse in European handball, yet they failed to win a medal at a major tournament since 2013. But an emerging talent on the bench snapped that streak, announcing a comeback after finishing fourth at the Women’s EHF EURO 2020. When Jesper Jensen assumed the Denmark women’s national team coaching position, few would have expected the transition to be so fast. However, Jensen, who is also serving as Team Esbjerg’s coach since 2017, took Denmark to new heights.
With an iron-clad defence, Denmark conceded only one loss at the IHF Women’s World Championship 2021, sealing a bronze medal that will surely galvanise their roster for future competitions. Moreover, at club level, Jensen oversaw a huge change in mentality for Team Esbjerg, despite failing to win the domestic title and finishing fourth in the 2020/21 season. Esbjerg, an underdog in the DELO EHF Champions League, were in superb form in the last months and which they also brought into 2022, as the Danish side won their group against powerful rivals, qualifying directly to the quarter-finals.
Olivier Krumbholz – France
Already IHF World Coach of the Year – Female team(s) in 2018, Olivier Krumbholz has enjoyed another superb year with France’s women’s national team in 2021. Having never won the Olympic Games gold medal in his career, Krumbholz led France to a flawless display in the knockout phase at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, despite losing two games in the group phase.
With their trademark defensive game, France played their best handball exactly when it mattered most, adding the Olympic gold medal to their collection. A few months later, ‘Les Bleues’ were close to seal an emphatic double at the IHF Women’s World Championship, but an unexpected letdown saw them clinch the silver medal after a loss against Norway in the final. Nevertheless, Krumbholz, who has led France in over 400 games in his two stints, improved his overall tally in major tournaments to 12 medals.
Ambros Martin – Győri Audi ETO KC
2021 has not been the year Győr have been waiting for, as Ambros Martin took over the team late in the previous season, in April, after the Hungarian powerhouse lost the domestic league derby against FTC-Rail Cargo Hungaria and, subsequently, the title in Hungary. Martin could not oversee a bounce back in short term, as Győr also lost the DELO EHF FINAL4 semi-final against Brest Bretagne Handball at penalties, but the foundations were laid down for the Hungarian team to be back stronger the next season.
Indeed, they have been since this summer, as Martin went undefeated for the rest of 2021, both in the domestic league and in the DELO EHF Champions League. Győr clinched the first place in their group in the European premium competition with only one loss in the beginning of 2022, against Vipers Kristiansand. However, the Hungarian powerhouse look menacing once again with the Spanish coach on their bench, who knows the club inside out, winning the DELO EHF Champions League four times with Győr.
This year, the fan voting for the IHF World Coach of the Year – Female team(s) will run from Monday, 7 March, until 00:00 CEST on 28 March. The IHF will announce the winner on 28 March.
In 2020, the awarding of the title was cancelled due to the disruption in handball caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Photos of Ole Gustav Gjekstad and Ambros Martin courtesy of EHF / kolektiff