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Last Updated: Monday, 7 June 2004, 07:57 GMT 08:57 UK
Hand it to Europe
Action from the Sydney Olympics
Russia won gold in 2000 - a fourth win for former Soviet Union states

Handball was first played in Germany in the late 19th century.

In the early 20th century the game spread across the border into Denmark, and evolved on its route north.

While the German game consisted of 11 players, the Danes developed a version with only seven in a team.

Handball made its Olympic debut as an outdoor demonstration sport at the Berlin Olympics, where Germany beat Austria in the final.

That was an 11-a-side tournament, but since the sport was re-introduced in 1972, coincidently also in Germany at the Munich Olympics as a seven-player event, the game's founders have struggled to match that success.

The tournament was only open to men and Yugoslavia took gold ahead of Czechoslovakia and Romania.

Women competed in the following Games when the Soviet Union won both titles with Europe taking a clean sweep of the medals.

Brazil's women featured in the two highest aggregate scores at the Olympics when they lost 45-26 to Austria and beat Romania 38-33 - both in 2000
Europe has dominated the event, particularly in the men's competition, where only one of the 27 medals have been won by a country beyond the continent, South Korea taking silver in 1988.

South Korea's women won gold in 1988 and 1992 but were denied a hat-trick at the death by Denmark in Atlanta after the final went into extra time.

The Danes successfully defended their title four years ago, joining the Soviet Union and South Korea as two-time winners.

Russia won the men's event in Sydney with Sweden finishing with silver for the third successive Games.

MEDAL TABLE (Top five)
Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
Men (since 1972)
Soviet Union 3 1 0 4
Yugoslavia 2 0 1 3
Croatia 1 0 0 1
East Germany 1 0 0 1
Russia 1 0 0 1
Women (since 1976)
Korea 2 2 0 4
Soviet Union 2 0 2 4
Denmark 2 0 0 2
Yugoslavia 1 1 0 2
Norway 0 2 1 3

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