Norway secures historic silver medal

Exceeding all expectations, Norway places in the World Men’s Handball Championship

Photo: Svein Andre Svendsen / NHF
Norway’s håndballgutter finally make good with their first championship medal.

Jo Christian Weldingh
Oslo, Norway

The Norwegian men’s handball team won a sensational silver medal in the World Championship on January 29, beaten by the French favorites in the final. After 20 years in the shadow of the more merited women’s team, the men’s team won their first championship medal in history.

Sander Sagosen, Torbjørn Bergerud, Bjarte Myrhol, and all the other Norwegian players played an excellent first half, but when France—who has won the title five times before—turned up the tempo in the second half, they simply didn’t stand a chance.

But the Norwegian team didn’t seem disappointed when they received their silver medals on the podium after the game. Before the tournament, the team hoped to reach a semi-final, but even that would be exceeding all expectations.

National team coach Christian Berge had mixed emotions during one of his post-game interviews, saying: “I’m proud of the team, their achievement, and the fact that they never give up, but we would have wanted that gold medal. I saw several of my players sending long looks towards the trophy when they walked past it just now. I liked that!”

Despite 16,000 almost deafeningly loud Frenchmen in the stands, the Norwegian team started the game excellently and without fear. They were up by three goals on several occasions, and France was trailing up until 30 minutes of play when Valentin Porte’s goal sent France in the lead for the first time.

Unfortunately—for the Norwegians, that is—the second half turned out to be a one-sided affair. The starting French keeper, Thierry Omeyer, who had big problems with the Norwegian shooters in the first half, was substituted with Vincent Gérard, who played an amazing second half. The Norwegians started missing, and France started scoring. Just four minutes into the second half, France was up by four goals, 22-18.

When France was leading 27-22, with twelve minutes left to play, Norwegian player Christian O’Sullivan was sent off, which resulted in France increasing their lead to 29-22, and the Norwegians’ chances for gold were quickly fading. The last ten minutes ended up being a French victory march, and France ended up winning 33-26. Kent Robin Tønnesen, the best Norwegian player of the match, was disappointed that they weren’t able to play a better second half. “But to be honest, I’m super happy with silver! It’s a major achievement for a Norwegian team to reach the final,” he told the press after the game.

Despite losing the final against France, three Norwegians were awarded a place on the All-Star Team: right wing Kristian Bjørnsen, left back Sander Sagosen, and pivot Bjarte Myrhol. France’s Nikola Karabatić was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

Interestingly, the Norwegian team wasn’t even qualified for the championship after losing to Slovenia in the playoffs, but the team was saved by a wild card given out by the International Handball Federation.

The World Men’s Handball Championship has been organized by the International Handball Federation since 1938 and has been dominated by European countries. France has won the championship the most times, but Sweden has won most medals overall.

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, but is currently living in Oslo. He has a BA in Archaeology from The University of Oslo and a BA in Business Administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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