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The World Handball Magazine (WHM) readers have singled out Denmark's Anja Andersen and France's Stéphane Stoecklin as their 1997 World Handball Players of the Year, thereby honoring two prominent back-court players with the most sought-after annual individual accolade in international handball.

More votes were submitted than ever before since the WHM's editorial team first started calling upon its readership to crown the best male and female handball players of the year, with the generous support of the sporting goods manufacturer Adidas. IHF headquarters in Basel (Switzerland) was swamped by a record number of votes sent in from more countries outside Europe than ever before - a sure sign that interest in honoring handball's best is really growing worldwide.

Meanwhile, the mountain of votes - possibly a record - in favor of Danish superstar Anja Andersen, who had to make do with second or third place in previous years, left her nearest rivals very much in the shade. Even the runner-up, Hungarian left-hander Helga Nemeth, was way behind, and she was followed by another Dane, goalkeeper Susanne Munk Lauritsen. So the Olympic and World champions' ability to dominate was impressively reflected in this individual competition too.

The running between the men was much closer, but in the end France's Stéphane Stoecklin saw off the competition from Hungary's Joszef Eles and Japan's world-class keeper Yukihiro Hashimoto. This is the second time since 1995 - when Jackson Richardson won the title - that France has provided the male Handball Player of the Year. This year, though, two-time winner Talant Duishbayev was nowhere in sight.

Here is the result of the readers' choice:

Anja Andersen (DEN) 1982
Helga Nemeth (HUN) 1063
Susanne Munk Lauritsen (DEN) 967
Hege Kvitsand (NOR) 211
Son He Han (KOR) 174
Natalia Deriugina (RUS) 69
Michaela Erler (GER) 68
Marie Ange Gogbe (CIV) 67
Christiane Lindemann (GER) 66
Tonje Sagstuen (NOR) 64

The previous holders of the title World Handball Player of the Year

1988 Veselin Vujovic YUG Svetlana Kitic YUG
1989 Kang Jae-Won KOR Kim Hyun-Mee KOR
1990 Magnus Wislander SWE Jasmiza Kolar AUT
1991-1993 Keine Wahl / no choice / pas de choix
1988 Veselin Vujovic YUG Svetlana Kitic YUG
1994 Talant Duishebaev RUS Mia Hermansson-Hugdahl SWE
1995 Jackson Richardson FRA Erszebet Koszis HUN
1996 Talant Duishebaev ESP O-Kyeong Lim KOR
1997 Stéphane Stoecklin FRA Anja Andersen DEN

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