London Olympics men’s and women’s team handball preview
First played near the end of the 19th century, handball is often credited with getting its name from Swedish native G. Wallstrom, when introducing the sport to his country in 1910. Not long afterward, German gym teachers began to make it a popular alternative to soccer, and it became a truly national sport over the next decade.
A global governing body was first introduced in 1928 and, following World War II, another in 1946. Handball made its Olympic debut at the 1936 Berlin Games as an outdoor sport, only to be dropped from the official program immediately after. Finally, the modern version of the event – played indoors – was introduced at the 1972 Munich Games and has been a fixture ever since, with women’s handball added four years.
It is 20 years and five Olympic Games since a team outside of Europe won the gold medal in handball and given its immense popularity on the continent there seems little chance that streak will end in London.
Reigning Olympic and world champions France are the favourites to win the men’s competition while holders Norway, who are also world and European champions, are the favourites in the women’s draw.
In the men’s and women’s competition, nine of the 12 teams are from Europe. The only non-European teams in the men’s draw are Argentina and Tunisia and 1988 silver medallists South Korea. In the women’s draw, the non-European teams are Angola, Brazil and South Korea.
Top Matchups to Watch
Great Britain vs. Angola, women (Aug. 3, 9:30 a.m. GMT): The Brits shocked the world by upsetting then-seven-time African Champions Angola (who have since won another title) 22 to 20 at the London test event in November.
Serbia vs. Croatia, men (July 31, 2:30 p.m. GMT): These two teams faced each other in the semifinal of the 2012 European Championships (Serbia won 26-22), and things got ugly. Thousands of policemen had to be deployed to provide security to fans and players alike, and a Serbian player was hit in the eye with a dart thrown by a fan and intended for a Croat.
Gold Medal Dates
Aug. 11: Women’s team
Aug. 12: Men’s team