Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Faliro Sports Pavilion Arena, Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex, Faliro; Olympic Indoor Arena, Helleniko Olympic Complex, Hellinikon
Date Started: August 15, 2004
Date Finished: August 29, 2004
Format: Round-robin pools advance teams to classification matches.
The 10 women’s teams qualified for the 2004 Olympics as follows – Greece as the host nation; the top five teams from the 2003 World Championships (France, Hungary, South Korea, Ukraine, Spain); the 2003 European Champion (Denmark); Brazil as the 2003 Pan American Games Champion; and the winners of the 2003 Asian and African Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (China, Angola, respectively).
During group play, which served to eliminate just two teams (Greece and Angola), the Ukrainians appeared as the strongest team, winning all their Group A matches. In the other group, Denmark and South Korea, together responsible for winning all Olympic gold medals between 1988 and 2000, tied for first place after a 29-29 tie. After four fairly close quarter-finals, the nations remaining were defending champions Denmark, Ukraine, World Champions France, and South Korea. After a close first half, the Danish women powered over Ukraine, beating them 29-20. The South Koreans started strongly against France, but saw the World Champions stage a comeback in the second half. The French scored 31-32 in the penultimate minute, but failed to score in the remaining time.
The final was thus a replay of the 1996 Olympic final, which the Danish women had won. South Korea, the 1988 and 1992 champion, was eager to regain the gold medal, and this made for an excellent handball match. After a 14-14 first half, the game fluctuated. Korea took a 19-16 lead, which was reversed into a 25-22 lead for the Danes with just five minutes on the clock. Jang So-Hui made it 25-25 with just a minute left, and the match went into overtime. In the first overtime, Korea opened up a lead (29-27), but Denmark came back to tie, 29-29. In the second overtime, Denmark pulled to 31-29, then saw Korea score four goals in a row (three by Mun Gyeong-Ha). The final minutes were insane. Katrine Fruelund scored two goals to tie the match in the very last minute, scoring a 7-m throw to make it 33-33. Kim Cha-Yeon then seemed to make the winning goal (34-33) with less than half a minute on the clock, but within 20 seconds, Fruelund once more tied the game at 34-all. Penalty shots had to decide the match. It was Danish goalie Karin Mortensen who would become the match winner, as she stopped two shots (those by Im O-Gyeong and Mun Pil-Hui), to win the shoot-out 4-2. It was Denmark's third consecutive gold in the sport, although none of the players had been a member of all three winning teams. Ukraine ended their tournament with a victory over World Champions France to win their first Olympic handball medal, a bronze.