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U.S. Women Finish Last in Handball

August 2, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ Home-country advantage? Didn’t help.

A national team based in the Atlanta area? Didn’t help.

A Pan American Games gold medal in 1995? Didn’t help.

The U.S. women’s handball team finished 0-4 at the Olympics after losing 24-23 to Angola on Thursday in the match that determined the final two places in the eight-team Olympic field. The Americans lost three straight in pool play to superior European teams before falling to Angola.

``The hard work we put in for 2 1/2 years got us close to a win but didn’t pay off in the end,″ U.S. coach Claes Hellgren said. ``The girls are a little sad right now, but that’s the story of sport. Someone wins and someone loses.″

Hellgren, a Swede, came to the United States to give a European touch to the U.S. national team, and a training center opened in the Atlanta area. That has led to an influx of young teens playing team handball in Cobb County.

But that training boost, success in the Western Hemisphere and the natural boost of a team playing on its home ground didn’t translate into victories.

``Claes did everything to prepare us, but we just didn’t perform,″ said Dannette Leininger, who scored four goals in the final game. ``The next few years are critical to the sport. We have to keep the interest going in this area. But I think the future is very encouraging.″

The medal matches also were set Thursday as South Korea and Denmark advanced to Saturday’s gold-medal game. Hungary and Norway will play for bronze the same day.

Denmark ousted Norway, which won the silver in the last two Olympics, 23-19. South Korea, which beat Norway for the last two gold medals, will go for a third straight after defeating Hungary 39-25.

China defeated Germany 28-26 for fifth place.

In the U.S.-Angola game, the largest deficit by either team was two goals, with the Americans leading 13-11 with 27 minutes left. But Angola (1-3) took a 24-22 edge with 1:50 left on a goal by Maria Joaquim.

The United States got within one on Sharon Cain’s eighth goal with 51 seconds left.

U.S. goalie Laurie Fellner made a save with 10 seconds left but lost several seconds retrieving the rebound. By the time Laura Coenen got the ball downcourt, she had little chance with a 30-foot shot in the final second.

``There was a little bit of a foul at the end, but that didn’t lose the game for us,″ Hellgren said. ``That didn’t lose the game for us. There are so many calls in a game that one doesn’t matter.″

Chryssandra Hires joined Leininger with four goals for the United States. Palmira de Almeida scored six goals and Luzia Maria Bezerra had five for Angola.

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