U.S. men’s handball team wins first world championship game in 26th try

Ian Hueter Handball

The U.S. men’s handball team won a world championship match for the first time in program history after 25 consecutive losses dating to 1964, beating Morocco in its opener in Jönköping, Sweden, on Friday.

The Americans, playing at worlds for the first time since 2001, edged the African bronze medalists 28-27.

The U.S. next gets two stronger teams, Croatia on Sunday and Egypt on Tuesday, but the win over Morocco puts it in good position to advance out of the four-team group in the 32-team field to the second stage of group matches.

The U.S. roster includes a U.S. Space Force officer (Drew Donlin), an American Ninja Warrior competitor (Gary Hines) and Ty Reed, a walk-on quarterback for Alabama’s 2012 national title team.

The U.S. has zero Olympic handball medals and an 8-39-1 record in Olympic men’s and women’s play. It hasn’t qualified a men’s or women’s handball team for the Games since it hosted in Atlanta in 1996. It lost to Greenland at the Pan American Championship in 2014 and 2016.

The U.S. is unlikely to qualify for the 2024 Paris Games. A bid goes to the winner of the Pan American Games next fall in Chile, where the field should include Argentina, which won multiple matches at every biennial world championship dating to 2007.

The U.S. hopes to ramp up for Los Angeles 2028, when it should receive automatic spots in the men’s and women’s tournaments as host nation.

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U.S. men’s handball team out of world championship after coronavirus outbreak

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The U.S. men’s handball team withdrew on the eve of the world championship tournament due to a coronavirus outbreak within the team.

“Two recent PCR tests indicated that a majority of our players and staff members tested positive for the virus,” according to USA Team Handball. “Everyone seems to be in good spirits and health, with little to no symptoms currently. However, the virus has rendered us unable to field a competitive team before our first match in two days.”

On Monday, 10 players from the 20-man roster tested positive, plus head coach Robert Hedin, while training in Denmark before they would have flown to Egypt for the tournament. Players were retested Tuesday with some positive and negative results flipped.

The U.S. federation and the International Handball Federation decided that the U.S. would withdraw after “in-depth discussions” before its first scheduled match against Austria on Thursday.

The U.S. was to play the world championship for the fist time since 2001. Its last Olympic appearance was 1996, when it got an automatic spot as host nation. It failed to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. was given a place at worlds after the North America and the Caribbean Handball Confederation was unable to hold a qualifying tournament.

The Czech Republic also withdrew Tuesday from the 32-nation world championship after several positive tests.

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Russia gets new name, flag for first world championship under ban

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Russia will be known as “Russian Handball Federation Team” at its first senior-level world championship under a two-year sanction from displaying the country name alone on uniforms, using its anthem and displaying its flag at global championships.

The world men’s handball championship starts Jan. 13 in Egypt. Russia, which placed 14th at the last worlds in 2019, is a wild-card entry.

In addition to the team name change, Russia’s flag will instead be the logo of the nation’s handball federation without text.

Its acronym will be RHF instead of the usual country code RUS.

It will adhere to the clothing regulations set out in the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling: no use of the word “Russia” unless accompanied by “neutral athlete” or an equivalent term.

A decision on a replacement for the Russian anthem has not been announced. If one isn’t made, the IHF anthem will be used.

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