“Great moments are born from great opportunity,” Guðmundur Guðmundsson, the head coach of the Icelandic Olympic Handball team, was recorded as saying in the locker room before the 2008 Olympic finals game against France. “And that’s what you have here tonight, boys. That’s what you have earned here tonight, one game. If we played ‘em ten times they might win nine. But not tonight. Tonight, we are the greatest handball team in the world. I’m sick and tired of hearing about what a great handball team the French have! Screw them. This is your time!”
Remember the ice-titans
Just kidding, that was actually an edited version of the pre-game speech from ‘Miracle’. That said, it is a pretty accurate description of the attitude going into that gold medal match. Iceland had been the undisputed underdog coming into the games, having placed just 9th at the 2004 Athens Olympics and not even qualifying for the two iterations before that.
But just like the American hockey team, the Icelanders managed to get to the gold medal match—though there was seemingly no way they could win there. France dominated handball, having 10% of the medals ever given out for the sport. And while the Icelanders did not end up winning the gold, they held their own spectacularly against those barricade-loving-Jacobins, snatching up the first silver medal the country had seen since 1956.
North Korean funeral
80% of the country tuned in to see this smiting and the enthusiasm of the win can only be compared to that of a North Korean funeral. 40,000 people—12.5% of Iceland’s population—greeted the team on their return in Reykjavík. The boys were national heroes—their penises were even memorialised in a sculpture at the Icelandic Phallological Museum.
Of course, the national euphoria was short-lived as just a few weeks later, Iceland’s economy fell and everyone lost their jobs and became poor. Well, you can’t win every day.
Read about other things we’ve won here.