THE NETHERLANDS AND BRAZIL CHALLENGE NORWAY’S DOMINANCE AS THEY AIM TO COMPLETE A HAT-TRICK OF OLYMPIC GOLDS IN WOMEN’S HANDBALL.
Netherlands, Brazil and Russia are the three main candidates to stop Norway from winning their third consecutive Olympic Games women’s handball gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Apart from their triumphs at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games and the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Scandinavians are the reigning world and European champions and the team everyone wants to beat as the handball starts at the Future Arena in Rio on Saturday.
“It won’t be as easy for Norway here as in the other years. We lost to them in the final at the 2015 world championship and now of course we want revenge,” said Dutch winger Angela Malestein.
A year ago, the Dutch had a fifth place from the 2005 world championship as their best international result, finishing 13th and 15th in the competition’s last two editions. Then the young team took silver at the 2015 world championship, won their Olympic qualifying tournament and are now considered one of the biggest obstacles for Norway’s Rio 2016 campaign. Confidence is high in the Dutch camp according to Michelle Goos, who thinks Norway can be beaten, but hopes to avoid them before the final.
“We have done a lot of work in the last Olympic cycle and to play at home can be a huge plus for us,” the 35-year-old pivot said. “It makes us favourites being in Brazil, but they are also favourites as the reigning world and Olympic champions. We have a great respect for them.”
Beijing 2008 finalist Russia and last year’s world championship bronze medallists Romania, lead by two-time International Handball Federation World Player of the Year Cristina Neagu, will also fight for medals.
If none of the 11 other teams can stop the Nordic machinery from winning another title, Norway’s Kari Aalvik Grimsbo, Katrine Lunde and Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren would become the only women in history to have won three Olympic handball gold medals.