With a surprise 24-17 victory over Spain in the final at the European Handball Championship in Poland, Germany not only won its second-ever title (the first was 2004), but also qualified for the Olympics as the continental representative. Spain, who had beaten the Germans in the preliminary round, now has to face the Olympic Qualification Tournament to make the Rio field. As does third-place Croatia, winners of the bronze medal over Norway. Fifth-place finishers France already qualified through the 2015 Worlds.
And Qatar Takes Asian Title
Meanwhile, in the Asian Championship also held this week, Qatar reaffirmed its regional prowess in taking their second consecutive title, defeating home team Bahrain 27-22 in the final. Qatar also finished second in the World Championship behind France last year, on home turf. By virtue of their finish in last year's continental Olympic Qualification, Bahrain and Iran move on to the next Olympic Qualification events for another chance at Rio. In a complicated qualification, Japan - winners of this year's Asian bronze and their firs-ever medal - did not earn a berth at the next stage.
Japan Wins Asian U-23 Football
Also on the continent, the Asian U-23 Football Championships concluded this week in Qatar, with Japan scoring a 3-2 win over South Korea for their first title in the tournament. Both teams also now move onto the Rio Olympics, as does third-place Iraq, after their 2-1 extra time win over Qatar. Japan also fielded the tournament's MVP in Shoya Nakjima. In London, Japan finished fourth in the Olympic tournament - can they make the medal stand this go-around?
Or, rather, Serena Williams' defeat at the hands of Angelique Kerber of Germany was the big story. Going for her 22nd Grand Slam title and her seventh Australian, Williams lost a tight three-set match to Kerber, for only the second time in her career. Kerber now moves on to world ranking #2, behind Williams, and a storyline to watch for the rest of the long year in tennis. Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic won his three-set match on the men's side, for his sixth title in Melbourne - and his fourth over Andy Murray in the final. Also at the tournament, Brazil's Bruno Soares won two titles - in men's doubles with Andy's brother Jamie Murray, and in mixed doubles with Russia's Elena Vesnina. In women's doubles, comeback Swiss legend Martina Hingis continued her doubles dominance with India's Sania Mirza for their third-straight Grand Slam title, after last year's Wimbledon and U.S. Open. If only they could team up in the Olympics - but it will be interesting to see what happens with their own compatriot playing partners in that tournament - although, is there a partner for them?
While Russia topped the medal table at this week's European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava with a total of seven medals, the highlight gold went to Spain's Javier Fernandez. Landing three quad jumps in the long program, Fernandez won his fourth-straight title - and scored over 300 to become only the second man to ever do so. Finishing second was Israel's Alexei Bychenko, for his country's first medal ever at the event. Russia scored at least one medal in each event, including golds in pairs (by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxin Trankov) and ladies (by Evgenia Medvedeva, who led a podium sweep for Team Russia). Ice Dance was won by Italians Anna Cappelini and Luca Lanotte.
While Germany Dominates World Luge
At the World Luge Championships in Koenigsee, the home town Germans came through as favorites by dominating the medal table, with 12 of 21 total podium spots. Felix Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Art each won three golds - individual singles (Olympic distance), individual sprint, and as part of the relay event for Germany. Switzerland's Martina Kocher was the only non-German winner, in the women's sprint, surprisingly pushing German favorite Natalie Geisenberger to second. (Geisenberger did win the standard women's singles event)
South Korea Tops Asian Cycling
At the conclusion of the Asian Track Cycling Championships in Izu, South Korea topped the hometown Japanese to take overall medal honors, with a tally of 17 to 14. Hong Kong, though, provided the individual star of teh competition with Cheung King Lok taking three golds - in the men's road race, road time trial, and track individual pursuit, and a silver in madison with partner Leung Chun Wing. Quite a show of prowess!
In Heusden-Zolder, Belgium, the World Cyclo-Cross Championships ended, with Belgium and the Netherlands taking the most medals across elite and junior races, with 5 and 4 respectively, with France at 3. In the women's elite, Dutchwoman Thalita de Jong took the title with a 14 second margin over France's Caroline Mani, while the highlight of the weekend proved to be the men's elite race victory by Belgium's Wout van Aert. Having to overcome a mid-race tangle with the Netherlands' Mathieu van der Poel, the 2015 winner ahead of van Aert, he finished just 5 seconds ahead of Lars van der Haar for the win.