May 23 2013 Latest news:
Lee Power, Olympic Reporter
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
The beauty of an Olympic Games is it throws up a variety of sports you would never, ordinarily, think about going to watch.
For when you do throw caution to the wind and decide to open your mind, you can be rewarded with some fantastic sporting action.
Impressed by the indoor volleyball at Earls Court on Saturday, my first experience of watching that particular event live, I pushed the boat out last night and tried handball at the Copper Box.
And I was not disappointed as Scandinavian neighbours Norway and Sweden produced an absorbing contest.
GB’s women might have lost their opening two matches against Montenegro (31-19) and Russia (37-16), while the men crashed 44-15 against France in their first outing.
But the sport is already proving itself to be most watchable during these Games.
I had obviously picked a good fixture to start with, as the stands were full of enthusiastic Swedes and Norwegians, bedecked in yellows and reds.
But my first impression of the action was how extremely physical it was.
Bodies were dumped to the arena floor in unceremonious fashion, with some taking hard-looking falls, and it wasn’t long before the first yellow card for a two-minute suspension was flashed by one of the two referees from the Ivory Coast.
Sweden eventually opened the scoring in the fourth minute - matches last for 60 in total - but Norway hit back with a quick brace to set the cow bells ringing.
The pace was frantic for the most part, although there were occasions when it slowed to walking pace, most likely to allow the women to get their breath back.
Players would use hand-offs on opponents, much like in rugby, and the amount of shirt-pulling going on was bordering on scandalous.
Norway’s goalie Kari Aalvik Grimsbo gave a little fist-pump to herself after each save and was a key reason behind her side building a 14-9 lead by half-time.
Teammate Linn Jorum Sulland helped herself to five goals, from nine shots, at the other end and each and every score was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the players, generally with arms fully outstretched as they scampered back down the court to prepare to defend the next attack.
Lots of the women were wearing knee and ankle braces and it was easy to see why given the way they would clatter into one another.
Tempers almost boiled over late in the first half, before the players took a well-earned break and the supporters were treated to some loud dance music to keep them out of their seats.
There was more man-handling and neck-high challenges in the second half, but the scoring rate slowed significantly as 15 minutes produced only seven more goals.
Norway’s Goril Snorroeggen took out Sweden’s Matilda Boson with a blatant body-check at one point, then got up smiling sweetly at the official, who was having none of it and issued another two-minute suspension.
There was so much energy and perseverence from the players, but also a viciousness when it came to their shooting. The myth about girls not being able to throw is well and truly disspelled.
As well as power, there was also some panache from Norway’s Camilla Herrem who scored with a very clever flick of the wrist which saw the ball spin around Swedish goalie Gabriella Kain and in off the far post.
Linnea Torstensson - with an eye-watering 504 goals in 120 appearances for Sweden - took her tally in this latest match to six and cut the gap to two goals with just over a minute left.
But Norway had the final word as the equally prolific Linn-Kristin Riegelhuth Koren netted her fifth of the night, lifting her career haul to a jaw-dropping 766 in 205 appearances.
Impressive, but don’t just take my word for it. Have a look for yourself.