Vipers Kristiansand queens of women’s handball world
Win Champions League led by 41-year-old keeper Katrine Lunde and 22-year-old Henny Reistad
JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
The Norwegian handball club Vipers Kristiansand beat French team Brest Bretagne, 34-28, May 30, in Budapest, Hungary, for their first- and Norway’s second-ever Champions League title in women’s handball.
The Norwegian handball women are used to winning international titles with the Norwegian national team, but for clubs playing in the Norwegian domestic league, international titles have been few and far between. Until this year, Larvik’s Champions League triumph in 2011 was the only Norwegian victory in the competition. Kristiansand overcame adversity with just two Champions League games in Norway, and almost 70 days in hotel quarantines during the season because of the pandemic.
Danish teams won in 2000 – 2004, 2004 – 2005, 2005 – 2006, 2006 – 2007, 2008 – 2009, and 2009 – 2010, then Larvik, before Buducnost, Györ, and CSM Bucuresti won the subsequent titles.
Vipers had a great start to the game and were leading 8-3 after eight minutes of play, when Bretagne’s coach decided to take a timeout. The team talk seemed to help, as six minutes later the score was even, 9-9. Despite Bretagne’s temporary comeback, the Vipers finished the first half excellently and were leading by four goals, 18-14.
In the second half, Vipers continued where they left off in the first, scoring four out of the first five goals, and the game was theirs to lose.
Bretagne was chasing the whole second half and at one point, the lead was down to four goals. Vipers’ victory never seemed threatened however, and the team from Kristiansand could celebrate their first ever Champions League title.
The woman of the match was the 41-year-old keeper Kathrine Lunde, who saved 16 shots, including three penalties, and, as team captain, was the one who lifted the coveted trophy.
“This is emotional. We have to appreciate the fact that Kristiansand has the best handball team in the world,” she told VG.
Lunde first arrived at Vipers in 1997 when she was 17 and the team was called Våg Vipers. When her career took off, she moved on to top European clubs like Aalborg and Viborg in Denmark, Györ in Hungary, and Rostov-Don in Russia, before returning to Vipers and Kristiansand in 2017. This is Lunde’s fifth Champions League title, the same number as fellow Vipers players Nora Mørk and Heidi Løke, all with three different clubs.
Kristiansand coach Ole Gjekstad was the coach of the Larvik champions.
Henny Reistad also made an impressive performance in the final. The 22-year-old from Bærum who scored 12 goals in the championship game and 10 in the 33-30 win over CSKA Moscow in the semifinals, was honored as the tournament’s most valuable player. She has won her first two international titles this season, the European Championship in December, and Champions League, and is expected to be one of the dominant women handball players over the next decade. And, she wasn’t born yet when Lunde first joined Kristiansand!
“The whole team fought the whole match and we just showed that we really wanted this trophy,” said Reistad on eurohandball.com. “I’m so glad that we made it in the end. It is perfect.”
Ana Gros, who scored 135 goals in Champions League play this season, contributed eight for Bretagne in the title game. Bretagne ruined a “Norwegian” final, beating host Györ 27-25 on penalty shots in the semifinal. Norwegians Veronica Egebakken Kristiansen, Kari Bratsett Dale, Stine Bredal Oftedal, and Silje Margaretha Solberg play for Györ, who took the bronze medal, beating CSKA 32-21. Kristiansen had 14 goals in the two games, Oftedal 11, Dale 5, Solberg 17 saves.
The Women’s EHF Champions League is the competition for the top women’s handball clubs in Europe, organized annually by the European Handball Federation (EHF). It is the most prestigious tournament for clubs, with the champions of Europe’s top national leagues participating.
This article originally appeared in the June 18, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.