But with team training on hold thanks to the lockdown, Zoé, who plays left wing, is doing her utmost to maintain personal fitness in preparation for the summer 2021 European Handball Championships in Macedonia.
Zoé (MChemistry, 2020) started playing handball when she was 13. Her French parents had played as teenagers and when they moved to the UK her father formed a local junior club which grew and merged with a local adult club to become the West London Eagles, where Zoé has played until coming to Oxford.
After playing at club level for a year she took part in the U16 England national academy and then trialled for the under-17 GB team for which she was selected. She competed for GB in the women’s under-19 European Handball Championships in Bulgaria in 2019 and in February 2020, at the last team event before lockdown, she was part of the GB team that won a silver medal at a local tournament in Porto, Portugal.
Since the start of the pandemic, training has been somewhat stop-start with Zoé working on an individual training programme which includes running and strength exercises plus Wednesday night team Zoom fitness sessions which, she says: “even virtually, it helps a lot to work with a group of people. “
Arriving at Wadham this year she became a member of the Oxford Handball Club, training at the Iffley Sports Centre. “I had three or four training sessions in bubbles of six with the Oxford Handball team but handball is very much a contact sport so that had to stop with the most recent lockdown,“ she said.
“Handball is a fast paced and really exciting game. You get to attack and defend and score lots of goals – for those who have never seen it before, it’s a bit like water polo without the water!”
Normally competition would be taking her around Europe for matches and Zoé is hopeful that the 2021 European Championships will go ahead in July despite her concerns over the inability of the team to train together ahead of the competition. “Other countries have not had the same regulations to restrict their training so the summer could be tough,” she admitted.
For Zoé sport provides an invaluable escape from her demanding academic schedule. “It helps keep me sane. And knowing that the championships are still going ahead in July is motivating me.”