On the women's side, Norway earned their second consecutive Olympic gold medal, defeating Montenegro, 26-23, in the final. The Norwegians were led by the stellar goalkeeping of Kari Aalvik Grimsbo, who led the tournament in save percentage, and Heidi Loke, who was named the All-Star line player for the tournament.
With another repeat winner on the men's side, France captured its second straight Olympic gold medal. The French defeated Sweden, 22-21, to once again stand atop the podium.
Seeking Olympic redemption after a quarterfinal exit in Athens, France defeated Iceland in the gold-medal match, 28-23, in Beijing. An Iceland win would have marked the first Olympic gold medal for the country. Spain captured the bronze medal behind the monumental efforts of 5-foot-9 Juan Garcia who led the tournament in scoring with 49 goals, including seven against 2004 Olympic gold medal-winning Croatia in the final match.
With the three-time defending Olympic champion Denmark having failed to qualify, women's handball crowned a new champion in Beijing. Norway dominated Russia en route to a 34-27 victory to capture the gold medal. South Korea earned its sixth medal in the women's tournament, defeating Hungary 33-28 for the bronze.
After winning gold in Atlanta in 1996, Croatia failed to qualify for the Sydney Games. The nation returned to the top of the medal platform in dominant fashion, capping an unbeaten run through the Olympic tournament with a 26-24 victory over Germany. Germany played the final without Pascal Hens, one of its most experienced players, who was injured in a game against France.
Katrine Freuland fired off 15 goals to help Denmark snare a second straight women's Olympic gold medal with a 38-36 win of Korea in the final. The win marked a spectacular turnaround for the Sydney champions, who were relegated to sixth place at the 2003 world championships, where they were beaten soundly by the Hungarians in a fifth place classification match.
For the third consecutive Olympics, Sweden lost the men's handball final, this time to Russia by a 28-26 score maddeningly reminiscent of four years earlier. It was the first handball gold for Russia, though the Soviet Union had won the men's title twice and the Unified Team was Olympic champion in 1992.
Croatia, runner-up at the 1995 World Championships, edged Sweden, 27-26, in the final to win gold. The Swedes went undefeated in pool play, easily handling the Croats there, but Sweden was unable to overcome a balanced Croatian attack in the final.
In the men's handball bronze-medal game, defending world champion France suffered a surprising, 27-25, loss to Spain, the final team to qualify for Atlanta. Spain's sudden success was thanks largely to Talant Dushabayev, who won a gold medal in 1992 while playing for the Unified Team.
On the women's side, Denmark captured gold after holding off South Korea 37-33 in the final. The Danes were led by Anja Andersen and Susanne Munk Wilbek who were each named the tournament's All-Star team.
Following U.N. cultural sanctions, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forbade Yugoslavia from participating in the 1992 Olympics. Last-minute nation substitutes were named, and both fared well: Norway's women took silver and Iceland finished fourth in the men's tournament.
Two years after winning the gold medal in Seoul, the South Korean women had finished 11th at the 1990 World Championships. But the team swiftly rebuilt and successfully defended its Olympic title, beating Norway, 28-21, in the final.
Upgrading from 1984 silver to 1988 gold, host South Korea took the women's handball title. A day later, its men tried to do the same, but a boisterous crowd wasn't enough as the Soviet Union defeated South Korea, 32-25, in the final. Still, with second place, South Korea became the first non-European team to win an Olympic medal in men's handball.
The U.S. women finished seventh, with their only win coming against the Ivory Coast. In the first half of that game, substitute Sherry Winn refused to move to the end of the bench, prompting coach Mihaly Faludi to walk off the court and into the stands. After halftime, the coach returned and Winn was forced to leave.
Los Angeles, 1984
A day after Yugoslavia became the first non-Soviet nation to take an Olympic women's handball title, its men, aided by nine penalty shots, also won gold with an 18-17 victory over West Germany before 12,958 spectators at the Forum. The U.S. men finished 1-4-1 and in ninth place; the women (2-3) tied for fourth.
Following its victory in the Olympic debut of women's handball four years earlier, the host USSR went a perfect 5-0 in Moscow to repeat as gold medalist. The closest the Soviets came to defeat was against Hungary in early-round action, when they led just 12-11 with five minutes remaining before closing with a 4-0 run and 16-11 victory.
As a member of East Germany's third-place handball team in Moscow, Roswitha Krause earned a handball bronze medal to go along with the silver she'd won in 1976. In 1968, Krause won a silver medal in swimming as part of East Germany's 4x100m freestyle relay.
As in 1972, Romania entered the Games as the defending world champion but did not strike Olympic gold again in Montreal, falling to the Soviet Union in the final, 19-15. Reigning Olympic champion Yugoslavia finished fifth, despite just a single loss (by one point, to West Germany). Yugoslavia was the lone team to beat the Soviets.
Women competed in handball for the first time at the 1976 Games. The Soviet Union earned the gold, with East Germany and Hungary capturing silver and bronze, respectively.
Off of the Olympic program since its Berlin debut, handball was saved from international obscurity when organizers made it a medal sport again for the Munich Games. This time, it was played on an indoor court, and with only seven men per side.
Host Germany failed to duplicate its dominance from 1936, finishing sixth. Yugoslavia upset defending world champion Romania, 14-13, before defeating Czechoslovakia, 21-16, to win the gold. Romania finished third.
Host Germany was allowed to add one sport to the Olympic program. It chose handball, which at the time was played on an outdoor field with 11 men per side.
Germany confirmed its handball prowess, winning its first four games by a combined score of 86-13 (including a 29-1 rout of the U.S.), then defeating Austria 10-6 to win the first Olympic gold medal in handball. The United States went 0-3 to finish last in the six-team tournament.