A shared birthday and a shared path – Uscins and Späth on course with Germany to Paris 2024

04 Apr. 2024

A shared birthday and a shared path – Uscins and Späth on course with Germany to Paris 2024

Just over 250 days separate winning 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship gold and qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, but not even one day separates their birthdays.

Germany’s Renars Uscins and David Späth are representative of the on-court future of one of the world’s biggest handball nations as they go for Paris 2024 Olympic Games gold this summer.

And they share a special bond: both were born on the 29th of April 2002 and have followed the same developmental path together for many years.

“It's great, because we’ve played since we were kids,” says goalkeeper Späth to ihf.info about playing in the senior team with Uscins. “Every year we played for the national team from 16 to 19 years-old and then the junior team.

“Now, we are really proud that we are playing in the first team and it's easy because the guys like (Martin) Hanne, Nils (Lichtlein), Fischi (Justus Fischer), they’re friends, big friends for me and I'm very happy. It’s more fun when we play together in the first team and, hopefully, also win something like we did with the junior team.”

Uscins, who captained the junior side to glory against Hungary (30:23) in the world championship final last summer at the Max-Schmeling-Halle in Berlin, is one of just three players, along with Späth and Lichtlein, who graduated from that U21 final squad through to the senior team in Hanover at the Olympic Qualification Tournament #2 and he echoes the thoughts of his goalkeeper.

“It makes it quite easier because we young players feel comfortable together and then it's easier to get comfortable with the senior group,” said the right back. “Sometimes, if you are alone, you have no-one to talk to, but in a group, it's much easier.”

While qualifying for an Olympic Games does not provide any medal or trophy, anyone who is part of the event will have memories for life and the duo are not taking anything for granted, working hard to be in the final squad.

“It's such an honour to play for Germany, and hopefully I will play in the Olympic Games,” said Späth, who named in the All-star Team for the 2023 IHF Men’s Junior World Championship.

“It’s an amazing feeling, because the Olympic Games is one of the biggest competitions for us and I'm happy to, hopefully, be a part of it. I have to do my work in my club Rhein Neckar and will do everything to be a part of this team.”

“It’s the biggest sports event that you can experience, especially if you are just 21 or 22 years old, which I will be in the summer,” added Uscins, who won all three ‘hummel Player of the Match’ awards at the qualification event in Hanover, where he plays his club handball for HSG Hannover-Burgdorf after joining the side in February 2022.

“It will be a really big event. Everybody says you have to be there if you have the chance. I try to make it real, I’m looking to also be there, but I have also to play good in the Bundesliga and try to get this place.

“It's not usual to have this experience at sports event at just 21,” he added about winning the world championship and qualifying for the Olympic Games both on home soil. “But it's something positive and gives you motivation for the work, which you’ve done over the past years. It’s the right way and I'm really happy and proud of it.”
Playing at home provided a wide range of emotions both on and off the court for the young German pair, not least when they suffered a loss to Croatia in their second game and were made to work hard in the third and final game, against Austria.

But despite their young years, the experience helped them develop as players and individuals even more.

“It was such a big game and we're so happy that we won,” said the 2.02m Späth about the 34:31 victory over Austria which confirmed their Paris 2024 Olympic Games ticket.

“I was so happy to be a part of it and you can see it when I play; my emotions, I'm very happy. It's an amazing feeling. When I step on the on the court, I try to be ‘David’ and play my game, but then after the game, I see it (his emotions) and say, ‘oof, it’s a little bit too much’, but in the game, it's everything for me to win, I give everything and that's me and I will do it until I am 40 or 45 years old.”

And, for Späth, it has been one player in particular, who has the same age gap to 45 years old, to his own age, who has helped guide him at the top level.

“Andi (Andreas Wolff), from the first day I met him, was very friendly to me. He's such a world class player, but he spoke to me like he's a normal person, he’s very easy to work with,” said Späth about the 33-year-old first-choice goalkeeper.

“He gives me such good vibes and also, when he’s not playing, he gives everything for me and that's helped me very much. It's such an honour to work with him. He's one of the best goalkeepers in the world right now and I hope I will work with him across the next years.”

But the praise also comes back for this exciting, new generation of German men’s handballers.

“We’ve got such a nice group of young players with so much talent,” said line player Johannes Golla. “We want to continue our journey [with them] and this Olympics can be a big part of it.”

“Although I am half a century older than them, I try to listen to them, and I do, if they’ve got ideas,” joked 64-year-old German coach Alfred Gislason about the newcomers in the squad. “I can always learn how I can use these players.”

With the job done in Hanover, Späth is looking to the world championship medal won last year in Berlin as motivation to add to his collection in August in Paris, knowing that with support anything is possible.

“Thank-you to everyone who supports us, we're very happy and looking forward for the support because with the fans we can do a lot and we can do the same in the Olympics; we can reach a lot,” he said.

“My world championship medal is in my home town, my parents have it because it's very important for me. Every time I go home, I see it and I have a big smile on my face and hopefully, because the Olympic medal is the biggest thing you can reach as a sportsman, I will do everything to get one.”