European and world champions defend their title in London
Norway retain Olympic title
The Norwegian women's handball team have defended their title at the London 2012 Olympic Games. But it took them a lot of energy to beat their surprising final opponents Montenegro 26-23 (13-10).
The Olympic debutants were not disappointed with silver and celebrated their unexpected medal by dancing on the court while the Norwegian players ran their lap of honour waving the Norwegian flag in the arena.
It was Norway's second women's handball gold after winning in 2008, and they join a long line of Scandinavian Olympic champions, with Denmark winning the women's handball finals in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
Final: Norway – Montenegro 26-23 (13-10)
Norway remain on top of all major competitions (Olympic, world and European) thanks to the stronger will and ten goals of Linn Sulland in the final.
Despite the defeat, the Montenegrin team have made history, as their silver medal is the first-ever Olympic medal for their NOC since they split from Serbia-Montenegro in 2006. In their first participation at an Olympic Games in 2008, their best result was a fourth in men's water polo.
The game was dominated by the top scorers Sulland and Katarina Bulatovic, who scored ten goals each.
Between the posts, Montenegro goalkeeper Sonja Barjaktatovic gave a world-class performance. Bulatovic became overall top scorer of the women's London 2012 handball competition with 53 goals ahead of her teammate Bojana Popovic, who scored 46 times and finished her international career with this final.
The first half was a private duel between Sulland and Bulatovic. This encounter ended with a draw after 30 minutes with seven goals (including four penalty goals each) for both shooters. Norway were in the lead 13-10 at the break, though Barjaktarovic had more saves than her counterpart Katrine Lunde-Haraldsen.
As Barjaktarovic stood firm, her team equalised at 19-19 in the 47th minute after being down by four goals. Needless to say it was Bulatovic with her tenth goal.
But Bulatovic's duelling partner Sulland had still not enough, too. Two minutes before the end she hit the net for the ninth time, scoring to make it 24-22 and her tenth goal to make it 25-23 meant the final decision and gold again for the defending champions.
Statements after the match:
Coach Thorir Hergeirsson (NOR): "I am a very happy and proud man. My team have been magnificent in this game we have shown we are still a great team. We knew it would be even tougher to win a second successive Olympic gold medal than it was winning it the first time in Beijing. Our momentum grew during the competition. We had some good and bad performances early on but we always believed in our hearts that we could get to the final again if we performed the way we know we can. Montenegro were a very fine opponent. They deserved their place in the final and gave us a real fight to the end."
Player Bojana Popovic (MNE): "I'm a little bit sad because we didn't win the gold, but this is big for us to win the silver medal. We achieved everything that can be achieved, we showed we are a great nation and that our Montenegrins can be proud."
Player Katarina Bulatovic (MNE): "It wasn't enough really. We are glad we took a medal but sad to finish the tournament with a loss. It is our first time at the Olympics so we should be happy. I am satisfied with silver. It is good for my career. I used to watch when I was younger and now I am the one on television. The reaction at home is going to be good. They will be really happy in the streets. It is something we will never forget. The people will be happy and proud. We will see when we get to Podgorica. Now we will watch our men’s water polo in the bronze final against and hope to see another medal."
TEXT: Björn Pazen
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