Paris Olympics: What to know and who to watch during men’s and women’s handball

A roadmap to follow for the men’s and women’s handball competition during the Paris Olympics:

Athletes to Watch

—Mikkel Hansen, Denmark: With his shoulder-length hair and headband, the powerful left back is one of the most familiar faces in Danish sports. A three-time men’s world player of the year, a record he shares with longtime rival Nikola Karabatić, Hansen enters the tournament as a world champion. Hansen’s only Olympic gold came eight years ago in Rio de Janeiro. Paris will be the last chance for the 36-year-old five-time Olympian to add a second. He is retiring after the Games.

—Yahia Omar, Egypt: The right back will stay in Paris whatever happens at the Games because he’s signed a deal with Paris Saint-Germain until 2027. The 26-year-old was one of Egypt’s best players when the Pharaohs achieved a national-best fourth-place finish three years ago.

—Nikola Karabatić, France: The elder of the Karabatić brothers — Luka is the younger one — the 40-year-old Nikola is one of the greatest players in handball history. His trophy cabinet reflects that, with three Olympic golds and four world titles. He has scored nearly 1,300 international goals, and this will be his sixth Games.

—Léna Grandveau, France: The fresh-faced Grandveau took the handball world by storm with a stunning performance in last year’s world championship final when, as an unheralded 20-year-old, she scored France’s last four goals in a dramatic victory against Norway. Now that defenders are aware of her speed and finishing, she will be watched closely.

—Henny Reistad, Norway: Don’t let Reistad, the reigning women’s world player of the year, get a shot at goal or she will probably punish you, as shown by her 74% scoring ratio at last year’s worlds. Reistad can play left back or center back and was a bronze medalist in Tokyo for Norway, the two-time reigning European champion.

Storylines to Follow

—Can the French do the Olympic double-double? France’s men’s team has won three of the past four gold medals, including three years ago in Tokyo. The women’s team is the reigning Olympic and world champion. Will playing at home in Paris be galvanizing for the players, or will the pressure of expectations be too much?

—Egypt surprised many observers by reaching the semifinals in Tokyo, knocking out Germany and then giving France a tough match. A multiple-time African champion, Egypt is hopeful about earning a first Olympic medal. However, Egypt is in the same group as Denmark, France and Norway, and has less strength in depth than the favorites.

Key Dates

—The women’s group stage gets underway on July 25, with the men starting two days later. Group games are in Paris before the competition heads north to the Pierre Mauroy Stadium in Lille.

—Women’s quarterfinals take place on Aug. 6, and the men’s are the next day. The women’s semifinals are Aug. 8, with the men’s on Aug. 9.

—The women’s gold medal game is Aug. 10 and the men’s final is Aug. 11, the closing day of the Games.

Reigning Champions

—Men: France.

—Women: France.


AP Summer Olympics:

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