Host City: Atlanta, United States
Venue(s): Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Date Started: July 26, 1996
Date Finished: August 3, 1996
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
After two Olympic titles in 1988 and 1992, South Korea also won its first world title in 1995, making the Asian squad the clear favorite for the Atlanta Games. At the '95 worlds, the first four teams qualified directly, which apart from the Koreans were Hungary, Denmark and Norway. United States (Americas/host nation), China (Asia), Angola (Africa) and Germany (Europe) completed the field.
Group A had Denmark and Hungary as favorites for the semi-finals, and they duly qualified. The Danes clearly beat the Hungarians to determine the pool ranking, the 1994 European Champions winning from the runners-up at the 1995 World Championships 27-22. In the other pool, South Korea cruised through, humiliating Germany (33-20) and comfortably beating Angola and Norway. The Norwegian women, silver medallists behind the South Koreans in 1988 and 1992, placed second.
The first semifinal was a Scandinavian fight, Denmark facing Norway. A year earlier, the Danes had defeated Norway for bronze at the World Championships, and again the Norwegians drew the shortest straw. Although the 23-19 scoreline suggested a fairly close match, the Norwegians underperformed and had to rely on their goalie (Heidi Tjugum) to prevent a larger defeat. The Hungarians, playing Korea in the other semi, had no such luck. Korea went all out and thrashed Hungary 39-25.
The final was an exciting spectacle, attended by vocal crowds of fans from both teams. Korea took command in the first half, leading 17-13 at half time. Denmark, with star player Anja Andersen at the helm, regrouped in the second part and slowly drew closer. With six seconds left on the clock, Andersen was fouled. A consistent penalty taker, Andersen took the shot herself. But Oh Yeong-Ran, the Korean goalkeeper, blocked the shot with her right foot, and the game went into overtime. Remarkably, Denmark was not shattered by the missed penalty shot, and they got out of the blocks with three unanswered goals. They held on to this lead in the 10 minutes of overtime, emerging victorious with 37-33. Denmark took the gold medal in its first Olympic appearance, which had not happened since the introduction of the women's sport in 1976.