Norway retained its Olympic women's handball title, winning 26-23 in the final Saturday against a Montenegro team earning a first-ever medal for their country. Norway began a heavy favorite as the defending Olympic, world and European champion, and ended the London Games among the Scandinavian country's biggest sports success stories.
Crown Prince Haakon and VCrown Princess Mette-Marit were courtside at the Basketball Arena in Olympic Park to watch the victory. "In team sports, it's the biggest team in Norway," said Norway coach Thorir Hergeirsson. "It's been a tough trip, we had a lot of ups and downs. Today we get paid."
At its second Summer Games competing as an independent nation, Montenegro got its first Olympic medal from a rare resource in a nation of barely 600,000 people. "I am proud for my girls and especially, for a small country like Montenegro, it is a huge success," coach Dragan Adzic said.
Montenegro unsettled the champion early on but never led after Norway took its first lead midway through the first half. Still, the champion was defied at times by inspired goalkeeping from Sonja Barjaktarovic, and Montenegro hung in even when it got into second-half foul trouble.
As Norway leaped and hugged at the final whistle, right-winger Linn-Kristin Koren hoisted a large national flag attached to a pole and led the team in a skipping run around the court. Montenegro's players celebrated their impressive effort by lining up in their goal area for a team photo, then linked arms around each other's shoulders in a circle and jumped around in unison. The Balkan republic failed to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Games, or the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
In the earlier bronze-medal match, Spain beat South Korea 31-29 in double extra time. © GPD AP