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Aron Palmarsson

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“Proud to be leader in the future”
Interview with Iceland’s young goal shooter Aron Palmarsson
He was the youngest member of the Olympic all-star team in London. But despite his young age of 22 Aron Palmarsson has already been quite successful. The Icelander won the EHF Champions League twice with German club THW Kiel, became IHF Super Globe winner in 2011 and bronze medallist at the European Championship 2010 in Austria.
The tournament in Spain will already be the third World Championship for Palmarsson, who transferred to Kiel in 2009. In this interview the Icelandic centre back and left back talks about the Olympic Games, his personal development and his team’s prospects in Spain. 

You were elected to the London all-stars at the Olympics. Do you feel pressure by that or is that rather motivating?
Aron Palmarsson: Such awards never put any pressure but spur you on. It is rather extra motivation to improve in the coming tournaments. 
Before the World Championship in Spain Olafur Stefansson announced that he would end his international career. Does his retirement cause any change to the hierarchy of the team?
Aron Palmarsson: We already had to do without Olafur at the 2012 European Championship. He was indeed the boss of the team, and we will miss him as any team in the world would miss a player like Olafur. He is incredibly intelligent and always has some surprising ideas in store to play the crucial pass. But even without him our team is a strong one. Players like Alexander Pettersson, Asgeir Örn Hallgrimsson or me have to assume more responsibility. 
Will you be the successor of Olafur Stefansson at mid-term?
Aron Palmarsson: I have been part of the team for years and have been among the starting line-up. So my job within the team is rather important and it might become even more important in the future. Yet, it is hard to succeed the best handball player ever, because Olafur had not just been the boss on the court but also the team leader outside the court. I will do my very best to follow in his footsteps step by step. At present players like our team captain Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson play Olafur’s role. I would be happy and extremely proud to be the leader and captain of the Icelandic national team one day.
Will you take over the leader’s role in Spain already?
Aron Palmarsson: Different people’s shoulders – including mine - shall take over that leader’s role in Spain.
Iceland will face Denmark in the preliminary round. Will the European champion be the favourite to win that group?
Aron Palmarsson: Given their performances and achievements at recent World and European Championships, Denmark is actually the favourite. I am really looking forward to this match against Denmark, as both teams play attractive and modern handball. It will be a close, tough and thrilling duel, but we want to put real pressure on Denmark.

Hungary eliminated your team at the quarter-final stage of the London Olympics. Did you and your teammates have difficulties in getting over it?
Aron Palmarsson: I can only speak for myself. It took a while to realise that we did lose that match. We were in the lead by one goal and were allocated a penalty with 12 seconds to go. It was saved, and Hungary drew in the very last second. During extra time we were short-handed and thus eliminated. After this defeat I went to Iceland and tried to cope with that situation. It took some time, but in handball you don’t have to wait long for new objectives to come, and that helped me get over that big disappointment. Only five days later I attended the final training session of THW Kiel before leaving for the IHF Super Globe in Doha. 
Aron Kristjansson is the new national team coach, successor of Gudmundur Gudmundsson. What has changed since he joined the national team?
Aron Palmarsson: We had only two matches with him after the Olympics. So there was no time for major changes. And he does not have to change that much, as we played well and were successful. I do not expect any major surprises from Aron Kristjansson. 
Another Icelandic coach plays a decisive role in your career. How did you profit from THW Kiel coach Alfred Gislason?
Aron Palmarsson: I was 19 years old when I came to Kiel meaning a major step in my life, and Alfred Gislason always helped and supported me. I have improved from year to year to progress. 

In November you scored 11 goals in the first qualification match for the 2014 European Championship. What is your current role in the national team, organise play or score goals?
Aron Palmarsson: We do not have so many players in the national team to score. This is completely different in Kiel where it is my job to organise play from the centre-back position. And I like to show more technical skills. But on the other hand being the left-back scorer feels good. I like both.
In Spain you and your THW Kiel teammate Gudjon Valur Sigurdsson will be playing side by side. Is it important to have a partner in your team with whom you act that harmoniously?
Aron Palmarsson: It is my first season to play with another Icelander in the club team. However, our team play with the national squad is perfect. So it doesn’t matter if you play at the same club or not. 
What are your goals for Spain?
Aron Palmarsson: We have to play on top level right from the start to overcome that tough preliminary round group, as we want to finish among the two top ranked teams of the group. The new playing system with the preliminary round followed by the knock-out stage will make the World Championship much more exciting. As from the eighth-finals everything can happen, our team’s daily form will decide a large number of matches. So it is really hard to name my goal before the tournament. 
Which teams do you think are the favourites for the WCh title?
Aron Palmarsson: France, Denmark, Croatia. Aside, you have to wait and see how Spain may profit from their home advantage. And previous tournaments showed that there was always one surprise team in the semi-finals. Let’s see which will be those teams in Spain.