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Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 11:34 UK

Ten to watch: Gro Hammerseng

Gro Hammerseng

By Ollie Williams

Norway's Gro Hammerseng captains the women's handball world silver medallists at her first Olympic Games.

She has led Norway to two consecutive victories in the European Women's Handball Championship in 2004 and 2006, and is one the stars of a sport hugely popular in continental Europe.

Hammerseng plays her handball alongside her partner Katja Nyberg, at both club level for Danish side Ikast, and for the Norwegian national side.

As Norway's top scorer at the 2007 World Championships in France, expect Hammerseng to lead from the front in Beijing.

FACTS & STATS

Born: 10 April 1980, Gjovik, Norway
Trains: Ikast, Denmark
Career highlights: European champion in 2004 and 2006
Personal best: More than 500 goals for Norway in over 130 internationals

PATH TO THE PODIUM

2008 form: Prior to the start of a July friendly between Norway and Hungary, Hammerseng received the World Handball Player of the Year award, as voted for by readers of World Handball magazine.

Hammerseng can add the trophy to a mantelpiece which already boasts two recent Norwegian awards roughly equivalent to the UK's Sports Personality of the Year gongs - one for her teamwork, and one for her status as a role model.

Gro Hammerseng
Hammerseng top scored for Norway at the 2007 World Championships
Rivals: Hammerseng herself is guaranteed a starting berth in the Norway team, thanks to her goalscoring prowess, largely derived from her height, strength, and the variety of feints she employs to leave defenders standing.

Norway as a team face a duel with Russia for Olympic gold. The Norwegians failed even to qualify for the Athens finals four years ago and, though they are European champions in a sport where successful teams are almost exclusive to the continent, the Russian national side pipped them to last year's world title.

How she could win: In the 2006 European and 2007 World events, Norway proved themselves adept at swatting aside lower opposition - even including Germany, world bronze medallists. They will look to avoid Russia until the final.

The Norwegian team has in the past been prone to ill-timed injury crises, but Hammerseng now plays alongside several other Norwegian stars at Ikast - so if they all reach Beijing in one piece, the team ethic should be strong.

What she says: "We're good in handball but quite good at partying also," Hammerseng told Norwegian daily Aftenposten on the back of winning the 2004 European Championships.

What you say: "She is one of the best, if not the best female handball player the world has ever seen."
SecretaryGen on the BBC Olympics Blog

Katja Nyberg
Katja Nyberg, Hammerseng's partner, plays alongside her for Norway
Sporting high: Being named World Handball Player of the Year in the build-up to Beijing. A year earlier, having finished runner-up for the 2006 award, Hammerseng said: "I appreciate it but I'm also humble - I know there are many handball players who are much better than me."

Sporting low: Missing much of the 2005-06 season with a knee injury. She missed the 2005 World Championships along with several other key Norwegian players, and they duly failed to reach the final four.

In action: 9-23 August
The Olympic handball groups swing into action on the first full day of competition following the opening ceremony, but the women's final will not take place until the penultimate day, Saturday 23 August.

AWAY FROM HANDBALL

Life before sport: Gro grew up in Gjovik, a small town with a population of 16,000 people in eastern Norway. She has studied marketing and media, but club handball has been a feature of her life since the age of 10.

Hero worship: Gro's unlikely hero is a blind girl named Maggie, whom she met on a trip to Zambia for the charity Plan Norway. Gro hailed Maggie as an inspiration and produced a video of her trip to promote the charity's long-distance adoption programme.

Gro Hammerseng on Amnesty poster
Hammerseng appeared in a campaign for Amnesty International in Norway
Most likely to: Speak out about human rights while in Beijing. Hammerseng and several other Norwegian stars have taken legal advice on what their Olympic role demands of them, having signed up for an Amnesty International campaign focusing on the treatment of Chinese dissidents.

Least likely to: Eat a Kinder Surprise egg. She prefers dark chocolate.

Did you know? Robbie Williams once appeared alongside Hammerseng on a television chat show. Here is a brief excerpt from the broadcast...
Williams: "Have you been in love?"
Hammerseng: "Yes."
RW: "Are you married? Boyfriend?"
GH: "No, girlfriend."
RW: "Have you got a girlfriend? Seriously?"
GH: "Yes!"
RW: "What does she do?"
GH: "She plays handball."
RW: "Does she? On the same side as you?"
GH: "Yes."
RW: "Don't mix business with pleasure, have you heard that saying?"





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see also
GB get to grips with handball
18 Feb 08 |  Handball
Russian women keep handball crown
17 Dec 07 |  Handball


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