In a rematch five years in the making that likely represented the final Olympics for Amandine Leynaud and Alexandra Lacrabère, two of the top out LGBTQ French handball players in recent history, France defeated the Russian Olympic Committee 30-25 to claim Women’s Handball gold Sunday.
The win represented the culmination of the French women’s journey back from Olympic heartbreak five years ago, falling to the same Russian squad in the gold medal match in Rio.
The same could be said for the team’s journey through the Tokyo Games’ tournament itself. A loss to the ROC during group play last week left many believing France wouldn’t advance to the knockout stage. The loss of Lacrabère to an abductor muscle injury early in group play only added to the woes.
But France was able to rebound in its final group game, beating Brazil and claiming the final quarterfinal spot. They never looked back, topping world champion The Netherlands and Sweden on their way to the gold medal match.
If the emotion of avenging a gold medal loss wasn’t enough, famed goalkeeper and vocal LGBTQ advocate Leynaud made it known that she would retire from the French national team following the Tokyo Games.
And she left it all on the court Sunday, including kicking a hole in a courtside structure after making an acrobatic, goal-robbing save in the first half.
The 2020 Games were likely Lacrabère’s last as well. The prolific scorer will be 37 when the Paris Olympics take place.
Knowing it would be her final appearance on the international stage, Leynaud soaked in the moment while paying tribute to her teammates during the medal ceremony. She personally draped the team’s newly won gold medals around the neck of each of her teammates, sharing smiles, tears and hugs all down the line.
Lacrabère also wraps her fourth Olympics finally grasping gold despite flying home to France last week after aggravating a previous abductor muscle injury.
France was one of three nations to field out LGBTQ players in women's handball this year. Sweden and Nathalie Hagman finished in fourth after getting decimated by Norway in the bronze medal match. Babi Arenhart and the Brazilian squad didn’t make it out of group play.