Europeans to extend dominance in Olympic handball

July 16th, 2008 - 3:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, July 16 (Xinhua) Since debuting as an Olympic sport at the 1936 Berlin Games, Europeans have swept all but two Olympic handball golds thus far. And there is little chance for the Beijing Games to see a change. In the men’s tournament, the competition for the gold remains wild open for Europeans. Reigning champion Croatia and world champion Germany are no wonder top favourites, but other powerhouses like France and Denmark also have the chance to kiss a medal.

The Croatian handball team attended Olympic Games twice and snatched two gold medals in 1996 and 2004. It made its way to Beijing by setting an all-win record in the qualification tournament.

Germany, the 2007 world champion, also set their eye on the gold medal. As the host country to witness handball debut in the Olympic stage, Germany has never been lack of enthusiasm for the sport. And the world championship title they won on home soil last year showed their sound form.

Croatia and Germany have been drawn apart in the two separate six-team groups for Beijing Games. And both are the top seeds.

The newly crowned European champion Denmark cannot be neglected. On their way to the Euro throne earlier this year, they muscled out Croatia and Germany one after another. It will be no surprise for the Danes to cruise to the podium in Beijing.

As for the women’s part, Russians are ready to win their first Olympic gold medal in spite of the fact that it is their first time to compete in Olympics.

Winning three straight Olympic gold medals from 1996 to 2004, Denmark apparently enjoyed a comfortable reign in women’s handball arena. However, the failure to qualify for the Beijing Games may suggest the end of their era. And Russia is the top favourite to succeed the dominance.

Russia started to rule in Europe after they won the world championship title in 2005. Although finishing second in the 2006 European Championship, Russia booked their berth in the Beijing Olympics by retaining their title in the 2007 world championship.

Russia’s arch rival in Beijing should be Norway. The two teams clashed in the European championship final in 2006. Though Norway defeated Russia, they lost the world title to the latter in the following year’s final of the world championship.

South Korea, the only non-European team which clinched the 1988 and 1992 Olympic gold medals, is the only candidate in people’s mind to break the European dominance again in Beijing.

However, after taking sliver in Athens 2004, South Korea had to see the retirement of several experienced key players. Now, it has to rely on their young players who showed inconsistency in performance. And losing the Asian title to Kazakhstan is a good lesson to learn from.

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