The Closest Ever Olympic Handball Match | Olympics on the Record


Here’s a close finish for you. No photo finish
or touchpads involved. Just a handball game with 14 players,
two coaches and one clock. Don’t forget the clock –
a key character in our story. And the judges too. That’s them
in the cute blue jackets. They’re very important
but we’ll get to them later. It was the semifinal game of the women’s handball
competition at the 2008 Olympic Games
in Beijing. The winners were in with
a shot at the gold medal, the losers,
playoff for a bronze medal. Handball fans knew
that this was THE game. The champions of Asia, South
Korea, against the champions of
Europe, Norway. In Korea, they take women’s
handball very seriously. They dominate
the Asian Championship. Norway and their coach,
Marit Breivik, dominated the European
Championship. The best two teams in the world
going head-to-head. In fact, we’re going to give
away the ending right now – the winners of this match would go on to win Olympic gold
by a crushing margin. So who would it be –
Norway or Korea? Going into the second period,
the answer had to be Norway. Korea’s first-half lead of one
point evaporated as the Europeans hit their
stride, Ragnhild Aamodt finding
this clever finish to put her side 21-18 ahead. This excellent team move showed
the Norwegians at their absolute best, dragging the Korean defence
this way and that before Kari Mette Johansen found the
net. The Koreans were now looking
at a four-point deficit. And so it continued. The odd strike by Korea,
top scorer Moon Pil-hee keeping her team
in the game, quickly cancelled out
by a Norwegian attack, team captain Gro Hammerseng
scoring. If the Norwegians could just
hold on through the dying minutes,
they would be through. But the Koreans refuse to give
in. They lay down for nobody. And a goal by An Jung-hwa
lifted them. Then another excellent strike
by Huh Soon-young put them within a single goal. 28-27. The Norwegians were rattled, veteran coach Marit Breivik
calling a time-out. Stop the game, regroup and find a way to close out
those final few seconds. Could the Koreans force extra
time? 25 seconds to save the game. Keep your eye on the clock. There’s one on the screen, Jan.
Right there. Top left. Aamodt misses. Just seven seconds left. Moon ties the match. And then… ..the scoreboard, like the fans
and players, was stunned, eventually spluttering out
the final score. Hammerseng’s last-second goal
had made it 29-28 to Norway. There was disbelief on the
court, jubilation… and bewilderment. Was the goal legal? Korean coach Lim Young-chul
beseeched the judges. Surely the clock had called
time. Surely the goal could not
stand. Chaos ensued until, finally, a decision. Norway would go on to the
final. Korea’s brilliant fightback now just a detail of Olympic
history. Norway went on to thrash Russia
in the final to lift the Olympic gold medal. Korea won bronze, brushing
aside Hungary, wondering, no doubt, what a difference
a second makes. Norway were the team
celebrating at the end of the tournament. But what a match. The final verdict was that the
ball had left Hammerseng’s hand before the clock called time, a fact seemingly verified
by the TV clock, top left, but still bitterly
disputed by the Koreans who took their grievance to the International Handball
Federation… without success. Meanwhile,
Norwegian coach Marit Breivik was given her country’s
highest honour – joining the illustrious list
of great Norwegians to be made a Knight of the Royal Norwegian
Order of Saint Olav.

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