The turnout in the IHF election of the male and female World Handball Player of the Year was high – more than 33,000 votes were cast through the Internet. At the end, Slawomir Szmal (Poland) and Alison Pineau (France) led the field. 20-year-old Pineau, who became Vice World Champion with France at the WCh 2009 in China, has received 39.8% of the votes and narrowly prevailed over Katrine-Lunde-Haraldsen from Norway (33.9%) and Liudmila Postnova from Russia (26.3%).
The results were a lot clearer for the men: Szmal aged 31 has received two-thirds of the counted votes (68.7%), so that Nikola Karabatic from France (20.9%) and Igor Vori from Croatia (10.4%) didn’t have the slightest chance.
The election of the World Handball Players of the Year which has been carried out by the IHF since 1988 therefore offers a double premiere: Never before has a player from Poland received this award, and Pineau is the first Frenchwoman to be awarded this title.
Alison Pineau, who plays for the French club Handball Metz, made it into the All-Star Team of the World Championship 2009 as the best playmaker. She was largely responsible for her team’s win of the silver medal which was a big surprise for many people – but also for the fact that her team was the only team to defeat later World Champion Russia during the whole tournament. In 2007, at the age of 18, she was already part of the French national team which came in fifth at the WCh in its own country –
one year after she had played her first international match within the women’s team against China. After two Frenchmen (Nikola Karabatic and Thierry Omeyer) had been elected World Handball Player of the Year in the last two years, Pineau now continues this success for the women. Up to now, she has scored 153 goals during 67 international matches for France. She won her first international medal with the French national team at the Youth European Championship 2005. This time and one year later at the Youth World Championship, Pineau was voted into the All-Star Team as the best playmaker.
“Kasa“, which is Szmal’s nickname, inherited his uncle’s talent – who had already been goalkeeper of the Polish national team and played in the German Bundesliga. In 2003, Szmal also left his home country Poland for Germany, transferring from Wisla Plock to TuS Nettelstedt. In 2005, he transferred again to Rhein Neckar Löwen. 31-year-old Szmal, who comes from the Polish city of Opole, experienced his first unforgettable moment with the national team at the World Championship 2007, when the Polish team, also thanks to his saves, reached the WCh final which they lost against host Germany though. At the World Championship 2009 in Croatia, Szmal again backed up the Polish team. Once again, he reached the semi-final of the World Championship – this time, the Polish team won the bronze medal. At this year’s European Championship, Szmal who is able to react very quickly again led his team to the semi-final, but Szmal and Poland finally lost the third-place play-off against Iceland. In Austria, Szmal was voted into the All-Star Team of the European Championship as the best goalkeeper. After the World Championship 2007, Szmal was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland. He has played 185 matches with the Polish national team so far. After the victories of Nikola Karabatic in 2007, who was playing for THW Kiel during the voting period, and Thierry Omeyer in 2008, also playing for Kiel, Szmal is now the third World Handball Player in a row coming from a German club.
Election results – World Handball Players 2009:
Alison Pineau (France/Handball Metz) 39,8%
Katrine Lunde-Haraldsen (Norway/Viborg HK) 33,9%
Liudmila Postnova (Russia/Zvezda Zvenigorod) 26,3%
Slawomir Szmal: (Poland/Rhein Neckar Löwen) 68,7%
Nikola Karabatic: (France/Montpellier HB) 20,9%
Igor Vori: (Croatia/HSV Hamburg) 10,4%