Uwe Gensheimer has already experienced a lot in his long career, especially in the final failure, one of the best German handball players of the last two decades is involuntarily tried and tested. That earned him the nickname “Us Uwe, the Unfinished”, and one can only guess what emotionally befell him on Sunday evening: Gensheimer was lying on the floor of the Cologne Arena, tears were running down his face, the scenery was nothing less than the dramatic end of a handball fight.
With the Rhein-Neckar Löwen, he had previously won the cup after a rollercoaster ride with a 36:34 (16:13, 27:27, 30:27, 31:31) after a seven-meter throw over the champions SC Magdeburg, and he itself had been a symbol of the showdown in the Rhenish metropolis. During extra time he had missed two penalty kicks and a free attempt from his left wing position, but when it came to the shootout, the 36-year-old was there: he hammered the lions’ first attempt into the top right corner of the goal and thus set the route. A few minutes later, after Magdeburg’s Gisli Kristjansson missed the only shot from the point, Albin Lagergren converted the last shot and triggered collective cheering in his lion team.
“I just collapsed at the end. The course of the game, I also left a few things in extra time,” said Gensheimer, visibly upset. The old star was the winner’s top scorer with eight goals, and even more: At the end of his career he finally celebrated his first triumph in a German cup final. “My eleventh attempt. So much falls away from me, it’s unbelievable,” said the left winger after the redemption.
Gensheimer had traveled to a Final Four tournament, in which the semi-finals and the final were played, ten times before – he had failed ten times. Now, in the fall of his career, he added the last missing national title. “I can not anymore. I’m just empty and super happy to have finally won the thing, “explained the long-time former captain of the German national team – and looked back on a game that had some waves ready: “I even put us in the situation because I missed a few shots, ”said Gensheimer. The fact that he then had the courage to be the first thrower for the showdown in front of 19,750 fans was due to the stipulation of his coach Sebastian Hinze: “The coach said I should take the first one.”
In addition to the 204-time national player, a young star was also a celebrated hero: goalkeeper David Späth, nominally only number three in the lion’s box, came on the field shortly before the end of regular time, but then kept his team in the game with his saves game and had a total of seven saved balls. “Yesterday during the warm up he came and I said, ‘Boy be focused, your moment can always come even if you’re the three’. It was like this. He closed the hut,” Gensheimer praised his 20-year-old colleague.
On Sunday evening, however, Hinze denied that the happy ending in the cup final could also unleash additional strength in the fight for the German championship: “To really attack again in the title race is absolutely unrealistic with a six-point deficit to the top,” said the coach.
After the last four Bundesliga defeats in a row, the lions are only fifth in the table with 37:15 points. “Obviously the two appearances at the Final Four give us a boost. But in the past few weeks we haven’t managed to stay in one position to be there at the end. What should happen there with the program that we still have until the end of the season?” asked Hinze. The cup winner has to play next Sunday at Foxes Berlin (41:9 points). Three days later, front runner THW Kiel (41:9) makes a guest appearance at the Löwen, who in mid-May also receive the defending champion from Magdeburg (41:11) and have to play fourth-placed SG Flensburg-Handewitt (39:11) on the last day of the game.
Rarely before has the title fight in the Handball Bundesliga been so exciting. And for the loser of the cup final it is now a matter of getting back on track as quickly as possible. “It creates a huge void in the whole team. We will carry this feeling with us for weeks and months and have many sleepless nights,” predicted Magdeburg’s coach Bennet Wiegert. “It’s going to be damn hard to keep all the goals going. But it’s part of the sport to come back. What always distinguishes us as SC Magdeburg is that we give answers on the floor,” said the son of handball legend Ingolf Wiegert – and added combatively: “Maybe it’s also the oil that I need for my fire.”