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04.01.2012, 22:21
France and Norway – the triple title holders
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Two European nations made a major impact on the world of handball in 2011 and re-wrote history.
 

France and Norway – the triple title holders

2011 was a historic year for handball - for the first time ever the three major titles for men and women were won by just two nations: France (men) and Norway (women).

After his team had celebrated winning gold in the Women’s World Championship in Sao Paulo, Brazil, last month, Thorir Hergeirsson, coach of the Norwegian women’s team, said: "It is incredible to be on top everywhere, but it is the result of hard work, which will continue in the future."

The World title completed their Gold collection after becoming Olympics champions in Beijing in 2008 and - for the fifth time in history and the fourth consecutive time - European champions in Denmark in 2010.

EHFEURO2010_NORWinner560

"Nobody expected us to play at such a high level in Brazil, as we were missing some highly important and experienced players," said Norwegian team captain Caroline Dyhre Breivang.

She is one of five players with Larvik HK in the national side, and 2011 was extra special for them as they also won the EHF Champions League – the first time ever a Norwegian club raised the trophy.

Norway is the second ever nation to hold all three major titles at the same time in women’s handball after Denmark had done the same in 1997/97 by winning the Olympics and European title in 1996 and the World Championship in 1997.

In men’s handball France was the first nation ever to secure the triple.

Their unstoppable series of success started at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and was followed by Gold at the World Championship 2009 in Croatia and the EHF EURO title 2010 in Austria.

But the hunger for titles was not quenched as, in 2011, the Frenchmen became the first team since 1974 (Romania) to defend a World Championship title when they beat Denmark in a thrilling final in Malmö.

"It is the team spirit that counts," said coach Claude Onesta. "We have been on top for years and in any competition, we are the team everyone wants to beat. But it is always a great feeling to stand on top of a podium at the end of a major tournament and to sing the French anthem. We can never get enough of winning - we are always hungry and eager to win."

One fact that both "triple trophy teams" share is that they both have a pair of siblings - Guillaume and Bertrand Gille have been pivotal in the French team for more than a decade, while Kristine Lunde Borgersen and her sister Katrine Lunde Haraldsen play for the Norwegian women.

"It’s great to always have your brother at your side," said Betrande Gille, who plays in the same club, HSV Hamburg, as his brother Guillaume too.

EHFEURO2010_FRAWinner560

But siblings aside, it is the experience, self assurance, ability to take pressure and the individual skills of world class players that have helped Norway and France reach the top. Nikola Karabatic, Thierry Omeyer, Luc Abalo for France, and Gro Hammerseng (currently pregnant), Heidi Löke or Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth for Norway all make the difference between Gold and Silver.

And of course the "triple crowned nations" are aiming high in 2012: France is the favourite at the EHF EURO in Serbia, and Norway are similarly tipped for glory at the EHF EURO in the Netherlands.

And in between those major continental clashes both hope to be on top of the podium on August 11 and 12 when the Olympic finals will be played in London.

France

2011 Men's World Championship - Sweden
Sunday 30 January 2011
France 37:35 (15:12) Denmark
http://www.ihf.info/files/CompetitionData/101/pdf/98FTR.pdf

EHF EURO 2010 - Austria
Sunday 31 January 2010
Croatia 21:25 (12:12) France
http://www.eurohandball.com/ech/men/2010/match/1/059/Croatia+-+France

2008 Olympic Games - Beijing
Sunday 24 August 2008
France 28:23 (15:10) Iceland

http://www.olympic.org/handball 
 

Norway

2011 Women's World Championship - Brazil
Sunday 18 December 2011
France 24:32 (13:19) Norway
http://www.ihf.info/files/CompetitionData/121/PDF/88FTR.PDF

EHF EURO 2010 - Denmark/Norway
Sunday 19 December 2010
Sweden 20:25 (11:10) Norway
http://www.eurohandball.com/ech/women/2010/match/1/059/Norway+-+Sweden

2008 Olympic Games - Beijing
Sunday 23 August 2008
Norway 34:27 Russia
http://www.olympic.org/handball
 


TEXT: Björn Pazen
 
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