With handball’s on-court activities still on hold amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Camilla Herrem has had a lot of time to think about her career future.
In the end, the 33-year-old Norwegian left wing decided to change nothing.
Herrem put aside offers from top clubs abroad to stay with her local club Sola HK, which will be coached by her husband, Steffen Stegavik, next season.
“I am not sure if he really knows how I am because I can be a little bit a pain in the a** at training,” Herrem joked in the most recent episode in the series of star player interviews by Chris O’Reilly on EHF EURO Instagram Live.
And, of course, Herrem will remain an important part of the Norwegian national team.
“We were going to have such a great summer together with the Olympics and everything. I miss where we were supposed to be,” Herrem said about the Tokyo Games being delayed until 2021.
One of the best wings of the past decade
Arguably one of the best wings of the past decade, Herrem played her first international championship for Norway at the EHF EURO 2008.
“I felt comfortable in the team but the biggest transition for me was everything around the championship,” said Herrem, who was 22 at that time and had joined Byasen HE from Sola two years earlier.
“It was such a nice and good experience to be in it, but you could feel the pressure. That caught me off guard a little bit,” she added.
Norway won the tournament for their fourth, and Herrem’s first, EHF EURO gold.
After also triumphing in 2010, Norway was beaten to the European title by Montenegro in 2012, just a few months after they won Olympic gold in London.
Norway bounced back in style at EHF EURO 2014, the tournament that has been in the spotlight on the EHF EURO Facebook page and YouTube channel this week.
“In 2014 we had a quite different squad from the 2012 Olympics, so there was a transition,” Herrem said. “This championship particularly we were fighting so good in every game. I felt we had a plan and were one step ahead of everyone else.”
Norway went on to add the 2016 title as well and raise their EHF EURO gold tally to seven, but in 2018 the team missed the semi-final for the first time in 18 years.
It will give Norway only additional motivation to perform well at the EHF EURO 2020, which they will co-host with Denmark in December, with the final weekend to be held in Oslo.
“That will be such an amazing experience. Playing in Norway, the arenas will be packed,” Herrem said. “In 2010 we also played in Norway but then the finals were in Denmark.”
"I loved to play for Vardar as the fans were always there"
On club level, Herrem stayed in her native Norway until she was 27, spending eight seasons with Byasen.
“Every year we wanted to beat Larvik, they had national team players all over. They were too strong for us nine out of 10 times,” Herrem said. “But in 2007 we won against them in the cup final, so that one is stuck in my memory.”
In 2014, however, the time had come for a new challenge and Herrem signed for Romanian side HCM Baia Mare, her first foreign club.
“I had such a good experience in Byasen but in the end I felt it was better for me to go out,” she said. “I felt like now is the time to move on and try something else, and Baia Mare was the best opportunity at that time.”
Baia Mare reached the quarter-final of the EHF Champions League that year. After one season in Romania and the next in Denmark, with TTH Holstebro, Herrem joined HC Vardar.
“I just loved how they arranged everything for the handball players. You have the arena with everything there: restaurant, strength, medical,” Herrem said. “I loved to play there as there was always a good atmosphere and the fans were always there, also at away matches.”
Herrem reached the summit of European women’s club handball with Vardar when they qualified for the EHF FINAL4 in 2017.
“It was just an incredible feeling to be there,” the left wing said. “Györ are always there so you know that most of the fans in Budapest are not cheering for you but that didn’t matter. It was one of the best experiences I had.”
Vardar reached the final against Györ, kept the favourites in check during 60 minutes (26:26) but ultimately went down in extra time by a single goal (31:30).
"I wanted to come home"
Herrem’s stay at Vardar ended after that one season as she decided to return home to Sola.
“Steffen lived with me for some months in Skopje. Then he got an offer from a team that was just 30 minutes away from where my family lives,” Herrem recalled. “I felt like I didn’t want to be stuck alone. At that time, I decided it was enough for me and I wanted to come home.”
Since then, Herrem has been playing for Sola again. The team was relegated to Norway’s second-tier league for the 2018/19 season but went back to the top division the next year.
And in July 2018, Herrem gave birth to the couple’s first son, Theo.
So what keeps her motivated to go on?
“Last season I was thinking a lot about defence. During the season you saw it was working. I love pressing myself and see how good I can get,” said Herrem, adding that playing at the top level with Norway is still appealing to her.
“Motivation for Olympics and championships will always be there. These are the most fun things.”