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Top handball players to watch in Rio

USA Today Sports

Top handball players to watch in Rio

Handballers to keep an eye on during the Rio Olympics

Alexandra do Nascimento

The first Brazilian to win an IHF World Player of the Year Award, Nascimento enters the Rio Games as one of the leaders of the host nation’s formidable squad. Now 31, she has been suiting up for her national team since she was 21 years old. In that time Brazil has won five Pan American Championships, and in 2013 she helped Brazil to their first world title. Nascimento was named to the Olympic tournament’s All-Star team at the 2012 Games.

Nikola Karabatic

A two-time IHF World Player of the Year, most recently in 2014, Karabatic is part of an elite French squad looking to add to their gold medal total.  He was a key member of France’s gold medal-winning team in 2012 and was named as the tournament’s top central back. Karabatic is a three-time world champion and four-time European champ. In 2011, he was named the L’Equipe Champion of Champions, awarded to the top athlete in all of France.

Heidi Loke

The leader of a Norway team looking for their third straight gold medal, Loke is seeking her second gold medal in Rio. Part of the national team since 2006, the 33-year-old was named the Olympic tournament’s best line player in London. She is a two-time world champion, including the 2015 tournament, and holds three European titles. 

Thierry Omeyer

Widely considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers the sport has seen, a solid showing in Rio and another gold medal could cement Omeyer’s legendary status. Omeyer, who is making his fifth Olympic performance, has played in every Olympic handball tournament since the turn of the century. The French keeper is seeking his third straight gold medal at the 2016 Olympics after being named the tournament’s best goalie at the 2008 and 2012 Games. Omeyer has been part of four world championship teams and was named the 2008 IHF World Player of the Year.

Mikkel Hansen

The reigning IHF World Player of the Year, Hansen has won the award twice in the last five years. While his Danish squad failed to medal in his two prior Olympic appearances, they did win the 2012 European championship. Hansen has led Denmark to two silver medals at worlds, including in 2013 where he was named the tournament’s MVP. The left back was the top scorer in the EHF Champions League this past season.

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