The U.S. men’s and women’s national handball teams took a major step toward returning to the Olympic Games in clinching a pair of wins over Canada on Wednesday in the second leg of the Pan American Games Qualifier in Montreal.
Combined with their victories over Canada on Sunday, the Wednesday results ensured berths for both teams at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, for the first time in eight years. The teams that win at the Pan American Games automatically qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, while the second-place teams will guarantee themselves a spot in an Olympic qualifying tournament.
Neither U.S. team actually had to win Wednesday evening to qualify, since the result was decided over a two-leg aggregate score and each won the first leg. But the women’s team was in a much tighter situation than the men.
The women’s team kicked things off, holding a two-goal advantage following Sunday’s 22-20 win. They held that lead and then some with a 26-16 win Wednesday night. They led from the very start, opening up with a 6-0 lead before Canada got on the board, and held a 14-6 advantage at the half. From then on the U.S. was able to maintain a solid distance between the host team before putting the seal on the victory.
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Nicole Anderson led the team with seven goals while Kathy Darling and Julia Sayer each had four goals.
The men’s team was up next, 12 goals to the good after Sunday’s 36-24 victory. Canada would have needed to win by an unlikely 13-goal margin in order to earn the Pan Ams spot.
That didn't happen.
But Canada did earn a tie to salvage a result from the qualifier. The U.S. led for most of the game before Canada tied it late 27-27. Gary Hines, Adam Elzoghby and Ty Reed all scored five goals.
The U.S. hadn’t qualified for the Pan Am Games in team handball since 2011 and hasn’t competed at the Olympic Games since qualifying as hosts in Atlanta in 1996.
Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.