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Karabatic shines as France claims 1st Olympic men's handball title
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The French team featured by star Nikola Karabatic won its first Olympic title in men's handball by defeating Iceland 28-23 on Sunday in Beijing.

The "Les Bleus" only got a bronze in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics before the victory. French players had to bid farewell to the Athens Olympics four years ago in the quarterfinal round.

"It is a dream. It is the most beautiful moment in my life. I can't realize that we won today," said excited Karabatic after the final.

"It is day and night. We lost in the quarterfinal in the last Olympics. It was really a nightmare. It took us a long time to forget it. But I think this is part of the Olympics. It was important to us as we lost and we learned and today we won because of it," added Karabatic. "It is great to win for France the last gold in the Beijing Olympics."

Karabatic was surely a shining star among the French players. The left back contributed a total of 29 goals before the final and created more clear chances for his teammates. With Karabatic as one of its driving forces, France had continued a no-defeat streak and made steady progress toward the final.

With diversified transferring and smart timing to launch attacks, Karabatic netted home all together eight goals for his squad. One score even extended France's leading to nine points.

That proved again that Karabatic deserves the title of the 2007 World Handball Player of the Year, in a contest organized by the International Handball Federation in conjunction with partner Adidas.

Born in Nis, Yugoslavia (today Serbia) with a Croatian and Serbian origin, Karabatic moved to France at the age of four with his father, a former goalkeeper from the former national team of Yugoslavia, who decided to play for Strasbourg.

Inherited the passion for handball from his father, Karabatic made his debut in France's first division at HB Montpellier when he was 17 years old, and won his first French Cup in the following year.

The young star's potential was exploited in Montpellier as he enjoyed a league title sweep from 2002 to 2005. Apart from being rewarded the best left back from the French League in 2004 and 2005, Karabatic also collected three French Cups, two French Super Cups and a Champions League trophy.

Karabatic quickly began to shine again after he decided to transfer to Kiel of Germany in 2005. He grabbed the 2007 Champions League crown and earned three German championship titles and two cup titles.

In January 2008, Karabatic brought France a bronze in the European Championship and became top scorer as well as the player of the tournament. The talented left back was hailed as the world's most complete player by many experts because as he does not only pose a threat to the goal but also plays an important role in defence.

Besides making clever judgement when playing handball, Karabatic also enjoys lingual talents as he can speak six languages including English, French, German and Spanish.

(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2008)

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