IHF Young Female Player of the Year Grandveau revels in newfound status

24 Apr. 2024

IHF Young Female Player of the Year Grandveau revels in newfound status

From a future star to a player able to decide matches on the biggest stages, Léna Grandveau has made a huge step towards greatness. Less than two years ago, the centre back was one of the leading players in France’s junior national team, who finished 13th at the 2022 IHF Women’s Junior World Championship.

Now, Grandveau has become an important player for France’s senior team, with the centre back scoring five goals in the final of the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, lifting France to the title, with a fantastic performance in a high-pressure environment.

Her excellent displays have earned Grandveau a nomination in the race for the IHF Young Female Player of the Year, in a shortlist which also included Germany right back Viola Leuchter and Czechia left back Charlotte Cholevova. Her impressive performances made Grandveau the favourite of all three voting categories – the fans, the coaches of the participating teams at the IHF World Championship editions and the members of the IHF Commission of Coaching and Methods.

Therefore, Grandveau became the first recipient of the newly introduced the IHF Young Female Player of the Year award, a huge performance for a player who announced herself from an early age, but still made her full debut in the France senior national team in 2022.

“It was a huge honour for me to receive this award, to be named the best young player in the world, because there are many good young players in women’s handball right now, therefore to be in the company of others and also being voted meant a lot and it is, like I said, a huge honour,” says Grandveau.

2023 has been special for the France centre back, with the calendar year coinciding with Grandveau’s first full season at Neptunes de Nantes, after switching from Bourg-de-Péage DH. It was a big step for Grandveau, coming from a smaller team to one of the biggest in France, which was immediately improved as the 21-year-old centre back slotted into the team.

The biggest leap was, however, when Olivier Krumbholz included Grandveau in the line-up for the 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, as France had a small change of guard, much-needed before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, where “Les Bleuses” will be the hosts and will try to retain the title won at Tokyo 2020, when Grandveau was only 18 years old.

“It was amazing, it is a special feeling. It was a superb experience for me and I hope to deliver some good performances – as a team – in the future, of course, because we are one of the best teams in the world,” says Grandveau.

The 2023 IHF Women’s World Championship, where France beat Norway twice and won the title without a single loss for the first time in history, was also Grandveau’s first major international competition with the senior team, and it was an absolutely special one, with Krumbholz’s side being unbeatable throughout the whole nine matches played and unplayable at times.

Grandveau was a key ingredient in those performances, despite not lighting the scoreboard with her numbers, as France have their own unique system, where all players contribute and none of them deliver amazing goal scoring performances. However, Grandveau’s unique skills saw her in the top 10 of the number of penalties drawn – nine in nine matches – only four less than teammate Pauletta Foppa.

Therefore, the centre back has really come of age, four years after securing the place in the All-Star team at the W19 EHF EURO 2021, a fantastic growth, underlined by slotting in immediately in a team with a certain system, one of the most intricated in the whole world.

“Winning the title was something special, because it came in the first major international competition for me and now, being here, named the best young player in the world, it still feels like a dream. But I have a lot to focus on, handball is my passion, handball is my life and I want to continue playing like this and learning more and more, because I am still young, I still have a lot to experience and enjoy myself on the court and in the training sessions,” adds Grandveau.

2024 will also be full for the young centre back, with Grandveau aiming for big objectives, for both club and country. Chronologically, the centre back will try to secure her maiden European club trophy with Nantes, when she will lead her team in the EHF Finals Women come May in Graz.

Then, Grandveau will certainly be part of the France team which will aim to secure the gold medal on their home court in Paris and Lille at the Olympic Games, where France face Hungary, the Netherlands, Spain, Brazil and Angola in the preliminary round. Then, France will head to the EHF EURO 2024, aiming to add to their ever-growing cabinet trophy, with their last trophy in the continental competition coming in 2018.

“I hope to deliver some good performances – as a team – at the Paris 2024 Olympics, where we will be the hosts, and at the EHF EURO 2024 later in the year,” concluded Grandveau.