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Korean women grab Olympic handball berth the hard way

Apr 01,2008
South Korea39s Huh Soon-young, right, tries to shoot around the defense of Ivory Coast39s Elodie Mambo on Sunday in Nimes, southern France, during their woman39s handball qualifying tournament match for the 2008 Olympic Games scheduled next August in China. [AFP]
The Korean women’s handball team has qualified for the Beijing Olympics. Again. Playing in its third Olympic qualifier in eight months, Korea finally clinched a berth with a 38-21 victory over the Ivory Coast late Sunday.
In the final qualification in Nimes, France, Korea was grouped with France, Congo and the Ivory Coast in a round-robin format.
The top two teams earned berths to the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. Korea and France finished tied atop the group with two wins and a draw, but France edged Korea in goal differential.
In August of last year, Korea came up short in the Asian qualifier and Kazakhstan claimed the only berth available at that tournament, amid accusations of biased refereeing by Middle Eastern officials. After Korea and Japan submitted appeals, the International Handball Federation ordered a January replay of the regional qualifier.
But only Korea and Japan took part and Korea won the game 34-21. The Asian Handball Federation, however, asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to intervene and on March 21, the Switzerland-based arbitration agency ruled the January result invalid, saying that other Asian officials didn’t have a chance to voice their opinions before the replay was ordered. The decision meant that Kazakhstan remained the Asian qualifier by virtue of its win in August’s initial qualifier, and it forced Korea to play in the final Olympic qualifying tournament.
Korea had to play three games in three days starting last Friday. Korea beat Congo 37-23 in the first game and tied France 25-25 on Saturday, before Sunday’s resounding win. There were two other qualifying tournaments in Leipzig, Germany, and Bucharest, Romania. Each event featured four nations competing for two spots. The four qualifiers are Germany, Sweden, Romania and Hungary.
The Korean women’s team won gold medals in 1988 and 1992, and silvers in 1984, 1996 and 2004. This will be their seventh consecutive Olympic appearance.
“I want to thank the players for going through all this,” coach Lim Young-chul told Yonhap. “Getting to the Olympics has never been this difficult.” There will be little rest for the weary. Lim said there’s still work ahead for the Beijing Games. “We’ll crank it up from now until the Olympics.”


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]


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