28 November 2021

London 2012: Bluffer’s guide to handball

July 15, 2012
London 2012: Bluffer's guide to handball

Handball adopts many key features of sports such as basketball and football. Speed, skill and stamina are key attributes for competitors in Handball as it is an extremely fast paced game with high scoring contact sport.

Originally it was played outdoors as field handball, but the modern indoor version was later introduced and made its Olympic debut at Munich 1972. The first women’s competition appeared at the Montreal 1976 Games and has featured at every Olympic Games since.

It is a hugely popular game worldwide with the International Handball Federation claiming that there are over 30 million people who play regularly, and its one of the fastest growing sports in the UK.

Venue: Copper Box and Basketball Arena, Olympic Park

Date: July 28 – August 12

Jargon buster

Pivot: An attacking player who spends virtually all their time as close to the opposition’s goal as possible.

First wave: A breakaway attack, made when the opposition’s defenders are out of position, which has a high chance of success. A second wave, in which more team-mates join the attack, attempts to isolate and outnumber one opposition defender, while the third wave is a standard, patient, attacking move.

Dribble: To move the ball by bouncing it on the floor.

Throw-off: A throw from the centre line, which restarts play at the beginning of each period and after each goal.

Two-minute suspension: The punishment for a second warning from the referee, or for any severe foul or unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Passive play: Timewasting (though there isn’t much time to waste in handball). If a team are taking their time and haven’t had a shot or reasonably looked to create a chance, the referee can call a passive play and turn the ball over, though a warning is given before they do.

Basic rules

Teams of seven (six outfield players and a goalkeeper) play on indoor courts (40m by 20m) with the aim of moving the ball by hand between team-mates and hurling it in to a goal similar to those used in hockey.

Players pass or dribble, bouncing the ball as they run – with three steps permitted in between each bounce – to move upfield, though outfield players are barred from the semi-circle around each goal.

Players can control the ball with any body part above the knee and are only allowed to stand still with the ball for three seconds, though opponents can’t deliberately grab or punch the ball out of another player’s hand.

It’s not uncommon to see 50 goals in a single 60-minute match.

The London 2012 tournament will begin with a preliminary phase where the 12 teams, divided into groups of six, will play all the other teams in their group. The four best teams from each group will qualify for the knockout phase.

One to watch

Nina Heglund offers the greatest scoring threat while 20-year-old Holly Lam-Moores is proving a success with Sonderjyske in the Danish Premier League, one of the best club competitions in the world.

Olympic rivalry? Great Britain’s handball teams are unlikely to be challenging for medals in 2012 but have demonstrated significant “performance milestones” since their formation in 2005.

Their focus may be more towards gaining experience to take with them as a more developed and stronger team to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Who’s the gold medal favourite? Russia have been the leading nation in the last decade, but there is also reigning Olympic champions Norway, for whom Katrine Lunde-Haraldsen pulls the strings.

Also to watch are Romania. Though they have slipped down the pecking in a sport they once dominated, they have the world’s best female player, Cristina Neagu.

Who to follow on twitter…




Handball Olympic fact

Handball is considered to be one of the oldest sports and its court is the largest court of any ball sport at the Olympic Games.

The Women’s Sports Magazine


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