Greece became the new world champion in women’s beach handball, at the very, first time of asking, beating Norway in the final on Sunday and marking a turning point for the sport in Greece.
In this first ever participation of Greek women at the Beach Handball World Championship, in Kazan, Russia, they negotiated a tough group at the first round finishing third, to advance to the knock-out stages and beat Russia 2-1 in the quarterfinals.
Then the Greeks saw off previous champion Spain in the semifinal’s shoot-out (2-1) and advanced to Sunday’s final where they locked horns with Norway. The two sets went one each way (18-14, 15-24) before Greece triumphed in the shoot-out (5-2) for an unlikely top spot in the tournament as rank outsiders.
One of the two Greek coaches, Maria Karantoni wondered: "What just happened? We are top of the world? I can’t believe it, it’s just too soon!”
Greece captain Vasso Skara, the tournament’s most valuable player – as well as its oldest one at the age of 45 years – said: “I have lived through so much, but I had always dreamed of this, to hear the national anthem of Greece and earn a medal.”
The Greek squad dedicated their gold medal to the memory of the victims of the deadly fire in eastern Attica, according to fellow coach Sofia Dimitriou.
Greece has also secured direct qualification to the World Games to take place next year in San Diego, USA. The sport is also about to enter the Olympic program.