LONDON -- Norway retained its Olympic title in women's team handball by beating Montenegro 26-23 on Saturday.
Norway was a heavy favorite as the defending Olympic, world and European champion, and ended the London Games among the Scandinavian country's biggest sports success stories. Crown Prince Hakkon and Princess Mette-Marit were courtside to watch the victory.
"In team sports, it's the biggest team in Norway," said coach Thorir Hergeirsson, whose squad got off to a slow start in the Olympic tournament. "It's been a tough trip, we had a lot of ups and downs. Today we get paid."
At its second Summer Games competing as an independent nation, Montenegro got its first Olympic medal.
"I am proud for my girls and especially, for a small country like Montenegro, it is a huge success," coach Dragan Adzic said.
Norway took the lead in the 15th minute when Linn Jorum Sulland's jump shot made it 5-4. Sulland's seventh first-half goal came right on the buzzer for a 13-10 advantage at the break.
Montenegro got into repeated 2-minute suspension trouble early in the second half, and twice was reduced to playing with two women benched.
But the Montenegrins tied it at 19 before Norway bounced back and held on for gold.
As Norway leaped and hugged at the final whistle, right winger Linn-Kristin Koren hoisted a Norwegian flag on a pole and led the team in a skipping run around the court.
"It's been amazing," Sulland said. "In the beginning of the Olympics we had some bad matches. I think we've done a really good job."
Montenegro, which formerly competed as Yugoslavia or Serbia and Montenegro, failed to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Games or the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Montenegro's players celebrated their impressive effort by lining up in their goal area for a team photo, then linked arms around each other's shoulders in a circle and jumped around in unison.
In the bronze medal match, Spain beat South Korea 31-29 in overtime.