[Mettes Håndboldhjørne][Mette's Handball Corner]

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The Atlanta Experience

OL i Atlanta set med en spansk tilhængers øjne

I decided to go to Atlanta to see the Olympics since I was already in Barcelona 1992 and really loved it. Seeing live handball matches at this level it's really something that I'm not used to, and the olympic tournament is the best for the great atmosphere you can breathe during the matches and around the town.

First of all, I planned my trip to Atlanta plenty of confidence on the basis of my Barcelona experience. I mean, in Barcelona it was very easy to get tickets for handball matches, except for the Spanish matches and for the finals (for which I already had the tickets before leaving for Barcelona). Since Spain is an handball country and the United States are not, and since the men's finals were planned to be played in an arena with a 35.000 capacity, I said to myself that getting tickets for handball was going to be a very easy thing.

But when I got to Atlanta and I bought the ticket for that morning session of men's qualification matches, I discovered that was a real exception and that all the tickets for all the matches were already sold out. The only chance to find tickets was to wait for some restitution from the sponsors! I was really disappointed, especially when, inside the hall, I discovered that a large majority of spectators were Americans who didn't have a clue of what was going on the field. They didn't know handball (or team handball, as it is called in the U.S.) at all, they just bought the tickets to get to Atlanta, buy shirts, buy pins, go to exhibitions etc. etc. Some of them even left the hall before the end of the matches, also when the matche were close and full of suspence (some of them came also to like very much what they saw and loved our sport, but that's another story).

But soon after I found that the "sold out" tickets were mostly in the hands of dozens of scalpers that strolled aroung the olympic area in the center of Atlanta (so much for the "toughness against scalpers" publicized in the Atlanta olympic brochures), and day after day I was able to see all the matches that I wanted to see, including the finals, and therefore to see some really great matches with many great players and two well deserved titles for Croatia, incredible defense against Russia, France and especially Sweden in the final, and, of course, Denmark. It was a little more expensive that I thought, but, hey, the Olympics come once every four years!

About the Denmark matches, I saw three of them: Denmark v. Hungary, Denmark v. Norway and Denmark v. South Korea, and I must say that I was astonished by the number of danish supporters following the team in Atalanta, I think there were more one thousand for each match.

Denmark v. Hungary was a good match where Denmark showed its skills and was able to avoid the clash against south Korea in the semifinal, but the best from the danish team came from the other two matches. Against Norway the danish team defended really well and even if Heidi Tjugum was incredible in saving many Danish shots (what a great goalkeeper! In Barcelona she was still very young and really inexperienced, but in Atlanta, and right now, she is probably the best goalkeeper in the game), but it was able to cruise to the final in a quite confortable way, especially because when they needed a goal Anja Andersen was there to provide it for them.

Denmark v. Soth Korea, the final, it has been inbelievable. Possibly one of the best (if not the best) handball match I've ever seen, especially if you combine a match very well played by both teams, both from the technical and from the tactical point of view, with a match full of surprises till the very end.

Anyway, South Korea started very fast as usual, playing in a way that is, from my point of view, the best way to play handball: aggressive defense, very fast counter-attacks, quick combinations in the offense. I bet that almost evryone in Denmark said that Denmark won the final in the second half, but I say that they won in this first half. Being able to resist to such an outstanding korean team and being able to be only four goals down, meant that the danish team was playing at its best. And they showed it in the second half when some great saves my Susanne Munk-Lauritsen, a great defence by all the team and especially Heidi Astrup, some counter-attacks by Gitte Madsen and Annette Hoffmann and the usual shots from Anja Andersen put Denmark back in the game and even in front (+1).

The final minutes of regular time were breath-taking. First Korea in front again by two goals, then a tie again, then Korea up by one, then Denmark that tied the game with less than one minute left, then a missed shot by Korea and, of course, a missed 7-meters throw by Anja Andersen with time elapsed. (By the way, the danish coach has been very good during the whole final, but in my team we have a rule, if the foul is against you don't throw the 7-meters shot because it is very probable that you will miss the shot. And this final shot was a demonstration of the correctness of the rule, even when you are the best player in the world). The extra time was all Denmark. Korea was not able to react because they had no strenght to play as fast as they used to and Denmark got its well deserved olympic title and its lively celebration.

That's my olympic story (or part of it) as I saw it.

Carlo Rodotá.

Indsendt d. 21/4-1999

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