08 Aug. 2021
Five years after conceding a loss in their first-ever Olympic final, the France women’s team have finally sealed their first gold medal at the Olympic Games, with an emphatic 30:25 win against the reigning champions, the ROC team.
It prompted an unprecedented double for French handball, after the men’s team also sealed the gold medal on Saturday, with a 25:23 win against Denmark.
It was a triumph of persistence and grit from France, who won only once in their first four games in the group phase, to set up a do-or-die clash against Brazil to proceed to the knock-out phase at Tokyo 2020.
However, the 29:22 win gave France newfound confidence, as Olivier Krumbholz’s side earned four wins in a row to go all the way, including a 32:22 drubbing of the Netherlands in the quarter-finals and a 29:27 win against Sweden in the semi-finals.
After conceding a 27:28 loss in the group phase against the ROC, France might have looked like underdogs, but played a flawless game to clinch the Olympic title for the first time.
Two 3:0 runs and a 6:0 run in the second half served as the backbone for a historic win, that helped France become only the third side to complete the Olympic Games – IHF Women’s World Championship – Women’s EHF EURO treble, after Denmark and Norway.
20-year-old line player Pauletta Foppa was both France’s best scorer in the final, with seven goals, but also in the tournament, where she converted 34 of her 42 shots. Experienced centre back Alisson Pineau added another seven goals, but the difference was made in the second half by a nine-save game from goalkeeper Cleopatre Darleux, who stopped the ROC side in their tracks.
Eight players – goalkeeper Amandine Leynaud, backs Grace Zaadi, Laura Flippes, Estelle Nze Minko, Alexandra Lacrabere and Kalidiatou Niakate and defensive specialist Beatrice Edwige – plus coach Olivier Krumbholz have won medals in all three tournaments, as their experience was key in delivering the win against the ROC side.
After the Soviet Union at Montreal 1976 and Yugoslavia at Los Angeles 1984, France became only the third side to win both the men’s and the women’s Olympic handball tournaments, setting them up perfectly for a title defence in three years’ time, when the Olympic Games will take place in Paris.
In the bronze-medal game, Norway delivered an emphatic 36:19 win, the biggest difference recorded in a knock-out game at the Olympic Games, to win their seventh medal at the Olympic Games in eight participations. Norway are leading the all-time table in number of medals won, with two golds, two silver medals and three bronze medals.
For the second time in a row, Norwegian right back Nora Mork sealed the top scorer title, with 52 goals, six more than Montenegro’s right wing Jovanka Radicevic and nine more than ROC’s right back, Anna Vyakhireva. Coincidentally, all three players are left handed.