Russia holds off France, takes gold in women’s handball

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One game after dethroning two-time defending Olympic champions Norway in the semifinal round, Russia claimed gold for themselves by defeating France 22-19 in the women’s handball gold medal game.

Anna Vyakhireva scored five goals, and Polina Kuznetsova and Daria Dmitrieva added four apiece for the Russians, who last won a medal in women’s handball in 2008 (bronze). The Soviet Union took gold in the first two Olympic women’s handball tournaments, in 1976 and 1980. Russia beat France twice during these Olympic, winning by one in their meeting during pool play.

WATCH: Russia takes gold in women’s handball

Russia led by as much as four goals in the first half before taking a 10-7 lead into the intermission. France, which was looking for its first gold medal in women’s handball, made a run in the second half and tied the score at 14 on an Alison Pineau goal nearly 16 minutes into the second half. But a Marina Sudakova goal nearly two minutes later gave Russia a lead they would not relinquish, with Olga Akopian scoring their final two goals of the match to ensure a gold medal.

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Pineau and Siraba Dembele scored five goals apiece to lead the way offensively for France, who in taking silver won the nation’s first Olympic medal in women’s handball. France’s men’s team will look to win its third consecutive Olympic gold medal on Sunday.

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Taking bronze in the women’s competition was Norway, which defeated the Netherlands 36-26.