The United States has never won an Olympic handball medal, and neither the men’s or women’s team has even qualified since 1996, which means that NBC probably won’t cover the sport much over the next three weeks. This is a shame, because handball is the shit.
A quick primer: Handball is like basketball played on an indoor soccer court, with hybrid lacrosse and basketball rules. It’s seven-on-seven, with six field players and a goalie on each side. You can only touch the ground with the ball in your hands outside of a certain radius from the goal, and you have to dribble when you move around with the ball—although the rules for gathering and running without dribbling are more relaxed than basketball, and the ball mostly moves via passes. Defenders usually chill in a semicircle, and protect the border of the goal area, which field players are not allowed to enter. The play resembles terrestrial water polo played at four times the speed of its aquatic counterpart, and the games are about as high scoring as any goal-based sport.
Because scoring usually requires both a dope pass and a certain degree of desperate contortion as the shooter falls to the ground, the highlights are incredible.
This highlight reel of flying kick saves is also damn impressive.
European teams have historically dominated handball at the Olympics, and South Korea is the only non-European nation to win a medal in both men’s and women’s handball. France and Norway are the two-time defending champs in men’s and women’s handball, respectively, and we’ve picked them both to repeat. Will there be an upset? Hopefully. Will there be some cool goals and other handball shit? Absolutely.