‘Handball girls’ go for the gold

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Norway’s national women’s handball team, popularly known as håndballjentene (the handball girls), assured themselves at least a silver medal at the Olympics in London on Thursday, after trouncing South Korea by a score of 31 to 25.

Heidi Loke scored eight goals Thursday night and helped win Norway a place in the Olympic handball finals on Saturday. PHOTO: London 2012

From Kautokeino in the north to Oslo in the south, Norwegians flocked around televisions to follow their national heroines in an evening performance that ended in cheers and hugs. Heidi Loke scored eight of Norway’s 31 goals and helped win Norway’s spot in the finals against Montenegro on Saturday.

That means Norway will at least win the silver medal in women’s handball, if not the gold.

Their spot on the winners’ platform was by no means assured earlier in the Games, as Norway lost early qualifiers and didn’t seem to be in their customary good shape. The women found their form at the right time, however, and now look set to retain their spot at the top after also winning gold at the last Olympics in Beijing.

Backed by thousands of Norwegians wearing red in the stands, and hundreds of thousands more at home in Norway, the handball players could also thank their coach Thorir Hergeirsson, who literally allowed them to play their way into shape. Hergeirsson had to fend off lots of criticism for letting some team members play when they weren’t performing as expected. He refused to change his strategy.

“We have worked hard to get everyone underway,” Hergeirsson told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “It cost us a bit, and that’s why we’ve swung a bit in presentation, but it pays off in the long run.”

When the final score against South Korea meant his team would be back on the podium on Saturday night, Hergeirsson said simply: “There are few things better than this.”

His team dominated the match, even though South Korea scored the first goal. That was the only time they held the lead, with Norway relentlessly bouncing back and, as one commentator put it, playing a “determined, efficient and solid” match that left the South Koreans in the dust.

“We still have a lot to show, so this is promising for the finals,” the star of the match, Loke, told NRK.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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