Achruk ready to fight for “every centimetre of the court”
After four successful years playing with Buducnost in Montenegro, centre back Kinga Achruk returned home to Poland ahead of the 2017/18 season. Achruk qualified for the Women’s EHF FINAL4 in every season during her time abroad, finishing second at the first edition of the event in 2013/14 and raising the trophy in 2014/15.
Having also reached the World Championship Semi-finals two times in a row, in 2013 and 2015, Achruk is no stranger to the highest level of international success – but decided it was time to get back to her roots and joined Polish club MKS Perla Lublin in the summer of 2017.
Achruk has been a key part of Lublin’s Women’s Challenge Cup 2017/18 campaign, which has seen them reach the final for the first time in the club’s history. She was particularly important in the second-leg semi-final against Ardesen GSK, scoring nine goals as her team turned a five-goal deficit from the away match into a 59:48 aggregate win that put them through to the final.
eurohandball.com caught up with Achruk as she prepares for the first-leg final, streamed live on ehfTV, against Rocasa Gran Canaria on Sunday.
eurohandball.com: Before joining MKS Perla Lublin you said that you had butterflies in your stomach just thinking about coming back home to Poland and starting a new period in your career. Where are your butterflies now?
Kinga Achruk: They are still there in my stomach. We have reached the first goal this season by winning the Polish Superleague a few rounds before the end of the championship, but it was just the first step. We are looking forward to the next challenges, as we can win the two other trophies within 10 days (Challenge Cup and Polish Cup).
eurohandball.com: The best-known international players in this edition of the Challenge Cup are Silvia Navarro and yourself. You have played against Silvia a couple of times and you will face her team in the big final. What kind of player is she?
Kinga Achruk: Well, I don’t know her well personally however, Silvia is a great player and I could talk about her for a long time. I always emphasise the importance of the team spirit and the whole group of players, not just individuals. Goalkeepers are key figures in handball, but we always win or lose as a team, not as Achruk or Navarro.
eurohandball.com: Is there a big difference in your mental preparation for Challenge Cup games in comparison with Women’s Champions League matches with your former club, Buducnost?
Kinga Achruk: No, professional athletes don’t have to look for an extra motivation. Sometimes if you are focused too much on one thing, it may be dangerous. I try to treat every game the same way, having always the same goal – play as well as possible and win.
eurohandball.com: You played at the EHF FINAL4 with Buducnost four years in a row. This season will be the first edition you will not participate in. Who’s your favourite?
Kinga Achruk: I do follow Champions League not only because many of my former teammates are still there. In my opinion, the Györ-CSM game is already a mini final. However, two years ago I was thinking the same before the semi-final Györ-Buducnost and the title was taken by CSM. You never know what might happen and every single team has a 25 per cent chance to raise the trophy. I don’t have a favourite, I just keep my finger crossed for my friends.
eurohandball.com: What did you gain in Buducnost?
Kinga Achruk: It was a wonderful time, an unbelievable handball adventure and I feel lucky I could be a part of this team. I gained a lot, I lived a lot, we qualified four times in a row for the EHF FINAL4 in Budapest and I will never forget winning the Champions League in 2015. Of course, to reach these goals we had to struggle, work hard every single day, but it brought a huge success.
I know that some people think that, from my side, it was a wrong decision to go to Podgorica but I don’t agree. I have no idea where I would be now in my handball career if I hadn’t accepted that offer. I would regret it for the rest of my life if I hadn’t taken that challenge.
eurohandball.com: The second leg match in Challenge Cup Final will be in Lublin, the same day as the Champions League Final in Budapest. Is that a bit symbolic for you?
Kinga Achruk: I will try to see a few minutes of the final games in Budapest as we will be playing very late (20:15 hrs) but I will focus completely on our task to win Challenge Cup. It is great that we will have this decisive game home with this massive support from our fans. The atmosphere in Globus Sportshall is wonderful, and we will be fighting for every centimetre of the court to raise the trophy and to make our fans happy.
eurohandball.com: Your coach Robert Lis said recently that one of the key factors is to play much better in the first leg than you did in previous rounds. MKS lost the first games against both Malaga and Ardesen.
Kinga Achruk: Well, everybody knows it. The plan is to play much better handball and to bring home a victory. It’s hard to predict what may happen in Spain. Rocasa had a draw in their last home game, and a few days ago they lost in Malaga against the team we know quite well.
eurohandball.com: Buducnost assistant coach Bojana Popovic said she was not surprised that, despite many offers from Hungary and other countries, you decided to go back to Poland. She knew how much you wanted to be closer to your family. Are you happy now?
Kinga Achruk: Of course, I am – and I will be the happiest person on earth as soon as my husband joins me. Now, we are a weekend couple and this is not something I like very much. But I am deeply happy having my parents and sister one hour’s drive from Lublin, in a place that I often visit to charge my batteries when I am mentally or physically tired. This is something I was missing a lot in Montenegro and now I am trying to take advantage of it as much as possible. I don’t want to lose any of these precious and priceless moments I can share with people I love.