In the end, it was to be gold. They did not deserve any less. The French handball team made sports history by climbing onto the highest reach of the podium, after clinching bronze in 1992. France ends the Games in the best manner by winning its 40th medal.
What is important to notice is their Olympic coronation. The guys have become new Gods now. This team really needed this medal as much as French handball. To win a gold medal in a team sport is so exceptional that we have to highlight it. The guys have joined the sport pantheon, as well as did the French football team in 1998. I take my hat off to them!
I am not sure I can designate the team's best player. They all did their job. One day, it was Nicola Karabatic or Cédric Burdet, another day it was Thierry Omeyer and Bertrand Gille. But If I have to choose one best player, I would say Thierry Omeyer who has been really wonderful !
Rodolphe Azadian cannot decide which superlative best defines France's handball team performance.
Thierry Omeyer was just sensational. Nikola Karabatic, fabulous. Although Cedric Burdet, was not selected by the coach, Claude Onesta, in previous competitions, he came back to replace Jérôme Fernandez in the best way possible in this final. But Narcisse, Giraut and the Gille brothers, all of them deserve fully this victory.
The Icelandics were struggling from the first half as the French just cruised through the game. It was simply brilliant.
For Hubert Ripoll, author of “Mental des champions” (The champions’ mettle), the French handball team of the 1990s, known as the 'Crazies', has paved the way for today’s 'Experts' to clinch gold.
For sure, past defeats will help players take counsel from the words of former star Jackson Richardson. “The Olympics are the most important event, where concentration is most difficult to handle. They only take place every four years, whereas European and world championships occur every two years. One is desperate to reach the Olympics. Then there’s all the atmosphere, the athletes’ village, the crowd. It inevitably affects concentration. At the first Games, one is almost afraid to get lost amid all the stars. You need to be mature to handle it all. This is where the youngsters need some help. In these conditions, unlike in individual events, the group plays its full role, so that when one player strays off course, the others are there for him. Olympic rookies are constantly told to remain vigilant and focused.”
This time round, the players will certainly not repeat the mistakes of the past, as described by Bruno Martini when I asked him which had been the greatest disappointment of his career: “At the Atlanta Games, there was no soul in the team. The group that had been so formidable in previous years simply imploded. Players had other interests beyond sport. My worst defeat remains that against Spain, in the match for third place.” There is no doubt victory is in the mind, prepared long before by the previous generation. This is the legacy of the elders.”