Men's Team Handball
The USA Men and Women both took important steps in reaching the 2012 Olympic Games in London albeit in entirely different fashions.
After a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Canada in the North American Pan American Games Qualification Series, the USA men bounced back at the Second Chance Tournament. They earned a draw with a much fancied Uruguay side and then dominated Guatemala to advance on goal differential and earn the final slot to the 2011 Pan American Games.
The USA women dropped the opening match in the North American Pan American Games Qualification Series by five goals, which left them an uphill battle in the away leg in Montreal. However, in one of the most stunning upsets in USA Team Handball history, the team shocked Canada by five goals in the “Miracle at Montreal” to make it to the Pan American Games.
The winner of the Pan American Games earns an automatic spot in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The second- and third-place finishers will have to enter an Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be played in early 2012. The last time Team USA competed in the Pan American Games was 2003 when the USA men earned the bronze medal.
Both the USA men and women will have to take several steps forward to earn those precious Olympic berths but both sides have an intriguing blend of youth and experience that could make the world notice how far team handball has come in the United States.
- Can the USA men win the Pan American Games and earn the automatic berth to the Olympic games that comes with it? It would be the first time a USA Team Handball squad has been in the Olympics since 1994.
- Can Michael Leon Williams impose his creative style on the top teams in the Pan American region and the rest of the world?
- Who will start in goal for the USA men? Veterans David Thompson or Danny Caparelli or will it be a new face?
- If they fail to win the Pan American Games, can they bounce back and qualify for the Olympics via the Qualifying Tournament in 2012?
- Gary Hines: A veteran back court player who dazzles crowds with his unearthly leaping ability, he will be relied on heavily for his scoring prowess. He scored 14 goals over two games at the Second Chance Tournament, which earned Team USA a berth in the Pan American Games. Hines plays professional in Germany for HSC Bad Neustadt.
- Martin Clemons Axelsson: A long-time veteran of European handball, Axelsson made his debut for Team USA vs. Canada in December 2010. He used his intelligence and craftiness to score 21 goals over two games at the Second Chance Tournament. He has played professionally all across Europe and currently for Lilestrom in Norway.
- Michael Leon Williams: The uber-talented 18-year-old is Team USA’s top playmaker from the center back position. His creativity was a driving force in the USA men qualifying for the Pan American Games. He plays his club handball for SG Flensburg’s Youth Team, which is one of the best youth sides in Europe.
The winner of the Pan American Games earns an automatic berth to the 2012 Olympic Games in London. The second- and third-place finishers at the Pan American Games will be entered in an Olympic qualifying tournament to be held in Europe in 2012.
- July 30-31, 2011: Men’s National Team Selection Camp – Atlanta, Ga.
- Oct. 14-25, 2011: Pan American Games – Guadalajara, Mexico