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Date: 11/14/2017

Next year, the eyes of the sporting world will be on Buenos Aires as the 2018 Youth Olympic Games get underway in the capital of Argentina.


Taking place from 6-18 October 2018, the Games will bring together 32 sports and nearly 4,000 athletes from around the world.


The international sporting federations governing those sports have selected their own Athlete Role Models (ARMs), to mentor and support those young athletes participating and, after careful consideration by the International Handball Federation, two very special players were selected to represent our sport, announced in the first list of 25 ARMs released.


Andrea Lekic

The 2013 Womens IHF World Player of the Year Andrea Lekic is well known for her exploits for club and country in Olympic (indoor) handball amongst many other awards, she won the Womens EHF Champions League with Gyor and silver with Serbia at the 2013 IHF Womens World Championships but Lekic actually played beach handball in the early days of her career and was very successful.


Playing for the then Serbia & Montenegro, Lekic scored over 70 points in Cuxhaven, Germany, at the 2006 EHF Beach Handball European Championship, but her side could only finish 11th overall.


A year later, at the 2007 EHF Beach Handball European Championship in Italy, Lekic again was in the points, scoring over 100 including 19 against Slovakia in her sides nine games as Serbia eventually finished ninth out of 18 teams. At a club level, Lekic also played beach handball for the Belgrade-based Leto 2002.


Despite picking up a shoulder injury recently, the now Vardar-based Lekic will be hoping to make it to the 2017 IHF Womens World Championship in Germany where she has recently been named in coach Ljubomir Obradovics 28-name squad list, along with Sanja Damnjanovic, Sladana Pop-Lazic and goalkeeper Katarina Tomasevic all of whom played with Lekic on the sand.


After the announcement, Lekic said: It's only one year to go until the Youth Olympic Games and you should be definitely following beach handball matches.


I am so in love with this sport and, trust me, you are going to be also. See you in Buenos Aires in 2018!


Gil Pires

The João Pessoa-based Gil Pires is one of beach handballs supreme athletes. The 35-year-old, 103kg, 1,95m pivot/left wing is a machine on the sand with his national team Brazil, winning three IHF Mens Beach Handball World Championships (2006 Rio, 2010 Antalya and 2014 Recife) and grabbing gold at all three of the official World Games mens competitions (2009 Chinese Taipei, 2013 Colombia, 2017 Poland).


He was also in the IHF Mens Beach Handball World Championship All-Star Team twice in 2008 as best left wing and in 2014 as best pivot.


Whilst he is known for his exploits on sand, Pires also plays OIympic (indoor) handball too, currently playing club handball for Clube Português do Recife. From 2008-2013 he played for the Brazilian mens national team, competing in the IHF Mens World Championships in Sweden (2011) and Spain (2013) where they finished 13th after reaching the Last 16 their best result to date as a nation in the mens competition.


After hearing about his nomination, Pires said: It is with great honour that I received this news and will do everything to influence the Olympic Spirit all young athletes. I am so happy to be an Athlete Role Model and to be able to share my experiences as an athlete.


My advice to my 15-year-old self would be to do everything that is necessary, so you can feel moments like I have; training, training and training... but don't forget to have fun and enjoy the moments that sport brings to you.


The role of an Athlete Role Model for Buenos Aires 2018

As ARMs, both Lekic and Pires well-travelled, well-experienced and fluent in multiple languages will be available to the athletes in the Youth Olympic Village over a minimum of five days through individual meetings and a series of educational activities and workshops focussing on skill development, careers advice, healthy lifestyles and Olympic values.


Athletes and fans will also benefit from the Chat with Champions sessions featuring questions and answers between the young athletes and those experienced ARMs who will also engage local young people in Argentina through activities and public sport initiation sessions.


The Athlete Role Models programme is a crucial part of the Youth Olympic Games and an opportunity for young athletes to learn valuable lessons from the best in sport, said Li Lingwei, Acting Chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for Buenos Aires 2018.


Competing in international sport at the highest level is an exhilarating career, but it also comes with its pressures and challenges, which is why we are happy to have the team of Athlete Role Models to support the next generation.


For more information about Buenos Aires 2018, visit www.buenosaires2018.com, to read more about the ARMs visit HERE. Follow Andrea and Gil on Twitter using @andlek77 and @gilhandebol.