Norway world handball champions

Norwegian women defeat the Netherlands to take the World Championship gold

Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG The future World Champions before December 16’s quarterfinal against Montenegro.

Photo: Bjørn S. Delebekk / VG
The future World Champions before December 16’s quarterfinal against Montenegro.

Molly Jones
Norwegian American Weekly

Two dozen teams competed for the title of world champions when Denmark hosted the biennial IHF World Women’s Handball Championship from December 5 to 20. The Norwegians qualified for a spot in the competition after winning the 2014 European Championship, and many considered the team to be a top contender.

In the preliminary round, the Norwegian women’s national handball team faced the other teams of Group D: Russia, Spain, Romania, Puerto Rico, and Kazakhstan. Norway lost their first match 25-26 to Russia, but went on to win the following four matches and easily advanced to the round of 16 with eight points.

After crushing Germany 28-22 in the round of 16, barely defeating Montenegro 26-25 in the quarterfinals, and beating Romania 35-33 in the semifinals, Norway headed into the finals against the Netherlands.

As seasoned gold medalists, the Norwegians were considered to be the favorites over the less-experienced Dutch team; this match would be the first time the Netherlands had competed in the finals of an international championship.

The statistics, however, suggested Dutch dominance both offensively and defensively. Throughout the tournament, the Netherlands had scored 29 more goals than Norway and their keeper boasted a higher percentage of goals saved.

Despite the stats, Norway remained confident.

“We probably have more desire for the gold than the Netherlands. They have played well, but they will have a tough time against us. I think it will be a great handball match,” said Nina Mørk.

It undoubtedly was. The Norwegians played their best match of the competition when they faced the Dutch team in the Boxen Arena in Herning on Dec. 21.

After only 10 minutes, Norway lead 8 to 4. The Norwegians continued to dominate offensively and by halftime they had scored 20 goals.

“This is some of the most fantastic play we’ve seen in Norwegian handball history. It is 20-9 in a World Cup final. It’s crazy!” said TV2 commentator Harald Bredeli at the half.

“It has been an extraordinary half. There is only one team on the field. It is a half we could only dream of,” stated NRK’s handball expert Geir Oustorp at halftime. “The Netherlands cannot compare to Norway. When they face little opposition in the finals, one can see how big the difference is.”

At halftime, Norway exuded excitement and played with confidence that the gold would be theirs. While the opponents picked it up a bit in the second half, Norway maintained the lead and came through with a solid win of 31-23. Saving over 50 percent of the Netherland’s shots, keeper Kari Aalvik Grimsbø was one of the match’s clear heroes.

“This is absolutely fantastic! We couldn’t have dreamed of a better first half,” said the seven-time scorer Camilla Herrem to TV2. “I am so insanely proud of this team.”

“It’s some of the best I have been a part of. The first half was perfect handball,” said veteran Heidi Løke to VG.

This victory marks the third time the women’s national team has won the World Championship and their 11th international championship gold since the team took their first gold in the European Championship in 1988. The team is now the defending Olympic, European, and World Champions for the second time in history.

Former handball athlete and current TV 2 expert Randi Gustad discussed the foundation behind Norway’s longstanding success:

“Over time, they have created a winning mentality … The players had responsibility, and it resulted in many having faith in a goal that they themselves helped to define. The whole time since, the national team’s leadership has been extremely adept at developing new leaders. There hasn’t been any generation shift.”

This year, the Norwegians will once again have the opportunity to demonstrate their outstanding potential and defend their gold in the 2016 Olympic Games.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 8, 2016, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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