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Saturday, September 30
Russia beats Sweden to win gold

SYDNEY, Australia -- Russia won the Olympic men's handball title on Saturday for the fourth time, beating Sweden 28-26 in the gold medal match.

The Russians, who won gold in 1976 and 1988 as the Soviet Union and in 1992 as the Unified Team, upset the world and European champions to win their third Olympic crown in 12 years.

The Swedes were left clutching silver for the third time in a row after they were beaten by the Unified Team in the 1992 Olympic final then by Croatia in the 1996 final.

With the king and queen of Sweden watching from the stands, the Scandinavians opened the scoring in the first minute through their captain Stefan Loevgren and held on to lead 14-13 a halftime.

But the Russians took control in the second half, establishing a five-goal lead midway through and holding on for a narrow victory thanks to a series of brilliant saves by their captain and goalkeeper Andrei Lavrov.

Lavrov, 38, became the first man to win three Olympic golds in handball. He was given the honor of carrying the Russian flag at the Opening Ceremony for the Sydney Games two weeks ago.

Earlier, Spain beat Yugoslavia 26-22 in the third-place playoff to defend the bronze they won in Atlanta four years ago successfully.

The Spaniards led 12-9 at halftime and extended their lead to four goals by the end of a torrid encounter.

Yugoslav back Ivan Lapcevic was taken to a nearby hospital with a suspected broken nose after colliding with a Spanish defender in the first half while the Danish referees were kept busy, handing out 14 two-minute suspensions and six yellow cards.
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