RESPECT YOUR TALENT scores: Mikhaylichenko, Kürthi star at EHF FINAL4
There were just six minutes left on the clock of CSKA’s semi-final against Vipers Kristiansand at last weekend’s DELO EHF FINAL4 in Budapest when Elena Mikhaylichenko stepped forward to take a penalty.
The 19-year-old Russian left back faced Katrine Lunde, the highly experienced Norwegian goalkeeper who is more than twice her age, but Mikhaylichenko easily scored from the penalty line.
It was a huge moment – not in terms of who was going to win the match, as Vipers led 29:25 at that time and won the game 33:30, and of course went on to win the title the next day.
It was huge for Mikhaylichenko personally. The goal was her 33rd of the season but only first since October 2020, when she tore ligaments in her right knee and was ruled out for seven months.
Also, it was the first goal scored at the biggest club event in women’s handball by a player involved in EHF’s RESPECT YOUR TALENT programme.
Mikhaylichenko even added four more goals in the 3/4 placement match against Györi Audi ETO KC on Sunday, though CSKA also lost that match, 32:21.
“I am so glad to be on the court. I am so glad that I got the opportunity not only to shoot seven-metre shots, but also to play on the court for this game,” she said after the Györ match.
“We didn’t show our best play for today, but I am so glad to be a part of this big event.”
Mikhaylichenko made a name for herself when she led the Russian youth national team to the world title in 2018, scoring 10 goals in the 29:27 final victory over Hungary. Later she starred for HC Lada in the former Women’s EHF Cup before joining CSKA for the Moscow-based club's debut DELO EHF Champions League season.
The Russian left back was not the only player from the RESPECT YOUR TALENT programme to find the net at the EHF FINAL4, as Györ’s 19-year-old right back Laura Kürthi also scored in that same match Sunday against CSKA.
“It was an impressive feeling to score in my very first EHF FINAL4 against CSKA,” said Kürthi, who was the last Györ player to score (32:19) before CSKA added two late goals.
It was the Hungarian back's second goal of the season. Kürthi came through the youth ranks at Györ, made the first team in 2019, the same year she helped Hungary win the W17 EHF EURO in Slovenia.
“It is every handball player's dream to play in the EHF FINAL4 and my dream came true with Györ,” she said. “I want to be there as many times as possible. I enjoyed every part of the weekend and the atmosphere was great. I hope I can lift the trophy once.”
This summer, Kürthi will join MTK Budapest on loan in order to get more playing time.
It was an impressive feeling to score in my very first EHF FINAL4 against CSKA. It is every handball player's dream to play in the EHF FINAL4 and my dream came true with Györ. I want to be there as many times as possible. I enjoyed every part of the weekend and the atmosphere was great. I hope I can lift the trophy once.
Mikhaylichenko and Kürthi are two prominent prospects from the RESPECT YOUR TALENT programme, which the EHF launched in 2019 to gradually build a rich portfolio of activities targeting both talented players (Future of Handball) and their handball ecosystems (Talent Environment).
RESPECT YOUR TALENT aims at promoting the holistic development of talented players’ careers, on and off the handball court. In the programme’s pioneering approach, the world’s best handball players supported by leading field experts inspire and instruct young athletes.
A string of big names in handball supports the programme as ambassadors, including the likes of DELO EHF Champions League 2020/21 top scorer Ana Gros, Stine Oftedal, Andrea Lekic, or Kari Aalvik Grimsbø.
The ongoing programme continues with a series of events in the summer of 2021. Later this year, the second RESPECT YOUR TALENT Camp in Vienna is scheduled for December and will bring together the All-star Team players of two under-19 tournaments to be played in July: the W19 EHF EURO in Slovenia and W19 EHF Championship in North Macedonia.
That camp will likely include more future stars like Mikhaylichenko and Kürthi who will shine at the EHF FINAL4 and other major handball events in years to come.
More information on the RESPECT YOUR TALENT programme is available on its dedicated page on eurohandball.com.