Heidi Loke, as strong as ever
Strong line players have been one of the reasons for Norway’s dominance in women’s handball and at European championships in particular for many years, and for more than a decade, Heidi Loke has been one of the best in the position.
Neither her 35 years nor having given birth to two sons keep her from appearing as strong and efficient on the line as ever.
Norway’s national coach Thorir Hergeirsson has nominated three line players for his EURO 2018 squad. With Kari Brattset from Györi Audi ETO KC and Vilde Mortensen Ingstad from Team Esbjerg as the two other pivots, Norway are definitely bringing a formidable trio to France.
However, Loke seems to be Hergeirsson’s preferred player for the position, and there are at least three important reasons for that decision.
One is Loke’s enormous experience.
In addition to her gold medals from European championships, two gold medals from World Championships and one Olympic gold medal, she has won the Women’s EHF Champions League twice, once with Larvik HK and once with Györ.
After she left Györ to return home and play for Storhamar HE in the Norwegian league, Györ were in need of a line player and wanted her back. She was tempted, but Storhamar would not let her go.
The scenario repeated itself this season, as Dutch international Yvette Broch put her career on hold. Once again, Györ wanted Loke back on their line, but this time, it was Loke herself who said thanks, but no thanks.
Another reason for Loke’s importance to Norway is the fact that her ambitions are as high as ever.
“I feel that I am back at my top level, and I definitely do not have any plans of ending my career any time soon,” she says.
This fact was emphasised again recently, as she signed a three-year contract with Larvik HK, where she will start her third spell next season.
“Larvik means a lot to me, and that is where I wish to end my career. It will be good to come home,” she says about the coming transfer.
Strength and versatility
A third and very relevant reason for Loke’s ongoing importance to the Norwegian team is her obvious qualities on court.
One of those is her physical strength.
“She actually has the physical strength of a male handball player,” says former men’s national coach Gunnar Pettersen.
That is no coincidence. Besides training with her club team, Storhamar, Loke also trains with men and has been doing so for several years.
“Men are naturally stronger and faster than women, and it is obviously tougher to have men as opponents than women.
“By training with men, I can improve considerably,” she says about her regular training sessions with the men’s league team from Runar Sandefjord.
Finally, her versatility makes her a challenge to any defender.
“The fact that she can shoot with both hands makes it particularly difficult to defend against her,” says former Danish international Trine Nielsen, these days an expert commentator for Danish TV2.
“As a defender, you think you are on the right side of her, and then she just changes the ball to her other hand and is free to shoot,” adds Nielsen, who played against Loke many times in her active days, in the Danish national team as well as in the EHF Champions League.
At the upcoming EHF EURO in France, there is no doubt that many defenders will get the same kind of trouble with Heidi Loke.
TEXT: Peter Bruun/jh