Norway’s frustrated and humbled women’s handball team had to travel home to Norway with “nothing in their baggage,” as their coach said, in the form of a medal. They’d been favoured to win the world handball championships in Japan, but wound up in fourth place.
Norway’s 33-28 loss to Russia was the final humiliation on Sunday, stunning and saddening fans in a country where handball is almost as popular as skiing. Everyone thought the Norwegian team had a clear shot at the gold, and then at least the bronze. Russia won that instead, while the Netherlands won its first gold and the silver went to Spain.
Coach Thorir Hergeirisson said there was no reason to feel sorry for the women, or for them to feel sorry for themselves. Better to learn from losses, he maintains, even though it’s painful. Now Norway’s team has to qualify for the Olympics through a series of matches against other top teams including Romania and Montenegro, also North Korea, in March. If successful, they’ll travel back to Tokyo for the Olympics later next year.