While the restrictions still in place amid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic are making life difficult for most handball players across Europe, Nora Mørk is quick to take the positives.
The Norwegian right back has used the time without competitive games to recover from yet another knee surgery.
As of now, she feels “almost 100 percent ready,” Mørk told Chris O’Reilly in the latest star player interview on the EHF EURO Instagram account.
“The lockdown has helped me because I am feeling more than ready to play handball,” said the CSM Bucuresti right back, speaking from her home in Oslo.
“The Olympic centre in Olso has been open for some athletes for a month. There are strict rules but it has been a really good motivation to be able to train the last couple of weeks,” added Mørk, who was joined by some Norwegian teammates also living in the capital.
"I just want to be able to let loose"
While Mørk has successfully worked her way back, the series of injuries has also made her reflective.
“I don’t want to play handball if I am scared, if I am stressing about one of my injuries. I just want to be able to let loose,” she said. “I don’t want to play with fear. That is my biggest challenge at the moment. That is what I need to work on the most. I won’t play if I am scared but I think I won’t be.”
For Mørk, “it would be a victory to play my first official game. It has been a tough couple of years.”
But now, she has several lights shining on the horizon she is looking forward to.
On club level, she joined CSM in the summer of 2019 but is still awaiting to play a game alongside teammate Cristina Neagu, who returned from her injury in the autumn of 2019 when Mørk was out again.
"We are really excited for this"
And on national team level, the EHF EURO 2020 is coming up in December, with her home country and Denmark hosting the event.
“When the Olympics were postponed, you set the next goal. In December, in a perfect world, we will be able to play at home in front of the Norwegian fans and try to fight for medals again,” Mørk said. “That is the greatest motivation that all the Norwegian girls are aiming for. We are really excited for this.”
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It will not be the first time that Norway and Denmark are co-hosting the European Championship, as it this was also the case in 2010, the year Mørk appeared in her first major tournament for Norway.
The Women’s EHF EURO 2010 was in the spotlight on the EHF EURO social media channels this week, and the final between Norway and Sweden can still be watched in full on Facebook.
For Mørk, the tournament carries varying memories.
Of course, Norway ended up winning the title, but it was not a walk in the park.
"Losing to Sweden on your home court, nobody wants that"
In their main round opener, Norway lost 24:19 to neighbouring rivals Sweden while they had only 13 players on the match sheet.
“There were three or four of the players who got food poisoning, they got really sick,” said Mørk about the first main round game. “It was not such a big deal, but losing to Sweden on your home court, nobody in this region wants that, so it was still quite disappointing.”
Of course, Norway went on to reach the final - and meet their neighbours once again.
This time, the favourites came out on top and clinched the title with a 25:20 win, but only after staging a comeback from trailing by one goal at half-time (11:10).
“Every final we play with Norway, we know that we can come back and that we still can find our groove. Luckily we did,” Mørk said.
"It gave hope that we could come back"
Playing her first final with Norway, the right back was struggling to get going.
“I was struggling in the final to get a goal, I missed at least four of five shots. I wanted too much,” said Mørk, who did score her sole goal of the final early in the second half.
“It felt good to finally get the ball in the goal. It gave hope that we could come back and it gave me the feeling that I was part of the game,” she said.
"The EHF FINAL4s have the best memories"
While Mørk also won the EHF EURO in 2014 and 2016 as well as the World Championship in 2015 with Norway, her club career developed just as successful.
She won her first EHF Champions League trophy with Larvik HK in 2011, just a few months after landing her maiden European title with the national team.
Her trophy tally was raised to four after three straight titles with Györi Audi ETO KC between 2017 and 2019.
While she won the title with Larvik in a two-leg, home-and-away final, the triumphs with Györ came all under the EHF FINAL4 format.
“The two most important games of the whole season, the whole experience with the atmosphere and the crowd: the EHF FINAL4s have the memories that I remember the most,” said Mørk, who is celebrating each EHF Champions League title by adding a stone to her specially designed ring.
“I am kind of obsessed with jewelry,” she said. “It was just a funny idea. Right now, it has four stones, but it has still room for more, plenty of space.”