When Britain's male handball team face France this evening, four of them will be competing in a sport that they had never heard of when London was announced as the host city.

The athletes were recruited - alongside eight other 2012 British Olympians - via a "Sporting Giants" programme designed to attract 'unusually' tall people to handball, rowing and volleyball.

"We went about asking these sports to work together with us to try and identify talent, looking at height as the first round filter," said Chelsea Warr, head of athlete development at UK Sport, a public funded body that invests in high performance sport.

Tall people have bigger muscles, which allow them to power along easier on the court or through the water.

"If we profile elite athletes in these sports there's lot of things that they possess but one of many is height" - Chelsea Warr

The same advantage benefits swimmers - US multi-gold medal winner Michael Phelps is 6'4", although the extra weight that usually comes with height can hinder sports such as long-distance running.

Over 2,000 men at least 6'3" tall and 500 women at least 6" tall applied to the programme, which was set up in 2007. Nine of these will be competing for Britain over the next two weeks - six of them in handball.

The women's handball team, which features two "Sporting Giants", kick off their Olympic campaign against Montenegro on Saturday.

Two of Britain's Olympic rowers - ex-hockey player Helen Glover and ex-showjumper Vicky Thornley - were also recruited via the programme, while Richard Jeffries was directed into canoeing.

Most, such as men's handball captain and goalkeeper Bobby White, had some sporting background but had never played their new sport before joining up.

"They didn't have to have played the sport before," Warr said. "In fact, we were quite interested if they hadn't."