The Olympic Games in Tokyo will be the seventh in which the handball team of Belarus will not play. The countdown, of course, comes from Atlanta-96, the first Olympics in our sovereign history and the most offensive in terms of missing the Games. Let’s remember how it happened. It is tempting to start in 1994, when, having made a comeback in a dramatic two-match confrontation with the Austrians, our handball players got to the first top tournament in their history – the European Championship in Portugal.
On March 2, Belarusians, who played in the strongest squad , sensationally lost in Linz 17:28. Six days later, in the old track and field athletics palace in Uruchye, there was a place for feat – 28:15! Here is how Sergei Novikov wrote about it on the pages of Pressball: “For this team, not getting ready for the return match in Minsk meant one thing: to scatter forever. Almost certainly only through the June Euro-final in Portugal will it be possible for this team to make it to the World Cup -95 to Iceland. And only through success there – to Olympic Atlanta “.
The task did not really look impossible. Of the twelve participants in the European Championship, nine were selected for the “world”. And already in Iceland, to get to the Games, you had to finish at least seventh place. At the same time, the composition of the Belarusian national team at the World Championship included four Olympic champions. And the team was led by Spartak Mironovich, one of the best coaches in world handball and the triumphant of Seoul-88 and Barcelona-92. Moreover, in one of the interviews that preceded that Olympic cycle, Spartak Petrovich reassuringly said that with proper work and accompanying luck, it could be repeated.
At the World Championships, everything boiled down to the fulfillment of two points: to get out of the group (Sweden, Spain, Belarus, Egypt, Kuwait, Brazil) and in the first round of the playoffs try not to get to Germany, which destroyed everyone in the adjacent six. The results of the Belarusian national team were as follows: Sweden – 28:29, Spain – 27:30, Brazil – 34:21, Kuwait – 39:18.
Thus, our rival in the 1/8 finals was determined in the last round of the group stage in the match with Egypt, which also had two wins, but with a very modest goal difference, only +4. That is, in order to take third place, Mironovich’s team was satisfied with a draw. And in the neighboring group, Romania turned out to be the main contender for the second place, bypassing the French in a personal meeting (by the way, future world champions). Romanians, on the other hand, initially seemed to be the most desired rival, since at the recent European Championship we beat them with a score of 33:24.
Well, now the match between Egypt and Belarus. Hope everyone has seen the dramatic ending. For those who did not get to her or did not have such an opportunity, I will inform you that the result of the meeting was not clear until the last seconds. The Egyptians were leading in the score, sometimes coming off by several goals. Ours were catching up and, as a result, reducing the gap to a minimum, in the last minutes they violently stormed the gates of their rivals, but the descendants of the pharaohs worked true miracles on the site. The result of 26:27 is not in our favor. And if you carefully observe the faces and emotions of the Belarusian handball players after the final whistle, then, in my opinion, you can see that they have no more energy left over to Germany. And so it happened. In the 1/8 finals we were defeated 26:33. Well, Egypt successfully dealt with Romania and took the final sixth place in the championship.
Well, for the Belarusian national team the championship-95 did not end after the 1/8 finals. The tournament was held according to an interesting formula and those who lost at this stage carried out their feuds, playing for places from ninth to sixteenth. We defeated the hosts (28:23), Spain (35:34) (according to Sergei Novikov, it would be too much to lose to the Spaniards twice) and Romania (35:32). The result is ninth place. That is, we stopped just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Games, but that was a weak consolation.