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American Women Lose Team Handball Opener

July 26, 1996

ATLANTA (AP) _ The obligatory playing of ``Y-M-C-A,″ fast breaks and fans doing the wave between taunting cheers. It’s the great American game of ... women’s team handball.

And this ain’t no Dream Team.

Anja Jul Andersen scored eight goals as Denmark beat the United States 29-19 Friday in another one of those Olympic sports rarely seen in America.

The biggest problem facing the host team is that most American players are like 26-year-old U.S. backcourt player Dawn Allinger. She took up handball only after her basketball career at Washington State had ended.

Denmark goalie Susanne Lauritsen is 29 years old. She has been playing organized handball _ which incorporates basketball skills like dribbling, passing and pick-and-roll plays _ for more than 20 years.

``America played very well, but they still need some tactics,″ Lauritsen said. ``It’s like American football tradition. We’re not good at that in Europe. There is no tradition.″

Some of the Danish players have been part of five world championships.

All eight women’s teams saw action on the first day of preliminaries, including 1988-92 gold medalists South Korea, which beat Germany 33-20. In other games, Eszter Matefi scored 11 goals in Hungary’s 29-19 win over China and Norway beat Angola 30-18.

The Americans may have lost their first game in preliminaries at the Atlanta Olympics, but they still heard plenty of chants and cheers from a raucous, mostly American crowd of about 6,100.

``It’s the kind of sport Americans like,″ Allinger said. ``It’s fast-paced, high-scoring and really physical. Everything they love.

``We’re kind of living and dying by the Olympics to get exposure. Americans who see it, love it.″

Marianne Florman’s bounce shot that hit the left post and squirted into the net with about 7:30 left in the first half started a run of six straight Denmark points. The Danish never trailed again.

Before that, the Americans had taken an 8-7 lead when Pat Neder scored on a fast break.

Sharon Cain’s fastbreak goal in the opening minute of the second half pulled the United States within 13-10, but Denmark scored five of the next six points and gradually built on its lead.

Chryssandra Hires, a former North Carolina basketball player, led the Americans with eight goals. Cain, who played basketball at Texas Tech, added five.

China took a 5-3 lead in its game, but Matefi then scored five straight goals over the next eight minutes to put Hungary in the lead for good. The Hungarians led 22-14 by halftime.

Trine Haltvik scored the first two goals of the game and Norway never trailed in its victory. Norway made more shots (30) than Angola attempted (28).

Kjersti Grini scored 10 goals to lead Norway, while Haltvik had seven. Palmira de Almeida led Angola with four goals.

O-Kyeong Lim scored seven goals to lead a group of six players who scored at least four points in South Korea’s victory.

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