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70OLYMPIC REVIEWFor latest news go to www.ihf.info or www.olympic.orgThe men andwomen'scompetitions bothproduced thrilling matches. Inthe men's event, Croatia, theworld champions, hit back aftertrailing 12-11 at half-timeagainst Germany to win 26-24and achieve their first and onlygold medal on the finalafternoon of these Games. It was a victory inspired byMirza Dzomba, who is generallyregarded as the best right-winger in the world. He scored nine times from10 shots as Croatia regainedthe title they had won at theAtlanta Games in 1996. Russiaearned bronze with a 28-26victory over Hungary.Denmark'swomen made it ahat-trick of Olympictitles by beating South Korea -in a game decided on penaltieswhen the teams could not be separated after two overtime periods. It was a repeat of the finalfrom Atlanta, which Denmarkwon 37-33 in extra time andthis clash was equally close.South Korea, gold medallists in1988 and 1992, thoughtvictory was theirs when theyled 34-33 before, with justeight seconds remaining,Katrine Fruelund equalised.Her teammate HenrietteMikkelsen converted the keygoal in the shoot-out whereDanish goalkeeper KarinOernhoej Mortensen made twosaves. Ukraine beat France 21-18 to win bronze.Handball has been on the Olympic Gamesprogramme since Munich 1972. It was fittingthat it returned to the Games in Germanybecause it had previously been a medal sport inBerlin 36 years earlier. At the time it was an 11-a-side sport, which was played outdoors;now it is seven-a-side, played indoors andmakes for great thrills and spills because of thespeed of a game developed on the format offootball, with the use of hands replacing feet.This form of handball was created in Europeancountries Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germanyand Sweden but history tells us that the sportitself is one of the oldest in the world. Even inThe Odyssey, written by Homer in around 600BC, there is mention of a game to mirror that ofhandball. Yugoslavia's men won the first Olympichandball gold medal and while the USSRbecame the first women champions in Montrealin 1976, Denmark has won the women'scompetition at the last three Games.Above left: The USSR take on Korea during themen's final in Seoul in 1988FORMATIn Beijing the number of women's teams hasincreased from 10 to 12, on a par with the men.Qualifying has started for both men and women,with 11 places available alongside the hosts.Germany, as winner of this year's WorldChampionship, and women's Europeanchampions Norway, have already secured their places.Half of the spots in each gender will bedecided at Olympic qualifying tournaments thisyear and next with continental competitions,such as the Pan-American Games, whereprogress to Beijing is guaranteed for thewinners. Since the Olympic Games in Athens in2004, the International Handball Federation (IHF)has approved 12 changes in the rules, overissues including timeouts and substitutions,which will come into operation in Beijing. It wasalso confirmed that squad numbers will be 14.VENUEHandball will take place in two venues at theOlympic Green: the National Indoor Stadium andthe Olympic Sports Centre Gymnasium. Thestadium is one of 12 new arenas being built forthe Games and is one of the most impressive,constructed to resemble a folding Chinese fan.It will have a capacity of 19,000 and willalso stage artistic gymnastics and trampolineand when the Games are over, will be used as agymnasium for local residents and be availablefor cultural and entertainment programmes.The sports centre venue is located towardsthe south of the Olympic Green - the indoorstadium is close to the centre - and is anexisting construction which is being renovated,increasing its capacity from 6,000 to 7,000,with the majority of seating at each side.CONTENDERSGermany, the runners-up from Athens, haveestablished themselves as one of thefavourites again as the clock ticks towardsBeijing. In February thisyear, Germany won theWorld Championship onhome soil in Cologne whenthey beat Poland 29-24 inthe final to secure their route to Beijing, eventhough they lost their goalkeeper HenningFritz through injury during the match.It was the first time a combined German team had triumphed in this eventsince 1938 and the first since West Germanywere champions in 1978 and the omens aregood for the Germans. Defending Olympicchampions Croatia were also the worldchampions when they arrived at Athens in 2004. France, who knocked out Croatia in thequarter-finals, were beaten by Germany in thesemi-finals and then lost to Denmark in thethird/fourth place match 34-27.The women's World Championship takesplace in France in December and will give astrong indication of the likely Beijingcontenders.Top: Hungary and France will be contendersin the women's event Below: Germany arethe new men's world championsATHENSREVIEWHANDBALL

OLYMPIC REVIEW71SPORTSPROFILES