Holger Nielsen – father of modern team handball
Holger Nielsen was a Danish fencer, shooter and athlete who drew up the first modern set of rules for the game team handball. Various handball games had been played in for thousands of years, by cultures such as the Inuits of Greenland, the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the medieval French, but team handball as we know it today didn't develop until the late 1800s when it became a popular sport in Germany and the Nordic countries – including Denmark.
At the age of 23 years, Nielsen drew up an early set of rules for handball in 1989 when he was working as a gym teacher, but it would take until 1906 before they were published. By then, Danish teacher Rasmus Nicolai had also drawn up a set up handball rules (1897).
Holger Nielsen facts
Holger Louis Nielsen was born in Copenhagen on December 18, 1866.
Nielsen competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era. He was awarded two bronze medals and one silver medal. His main sport was fencing, where he competed in sabre and placed third. His silver medal was won in the free pistol competition where he scored 285 (12, 85, 62, 24 and 100). His second bronze medal was also from a firearms contest – 25 meter rapid fire pistol. Only three contestants finished the event which meant that Nielsen was awarded with a bronze medal even though he came in last. Nielsen also competed in discus throw during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, but did not place among the top three.
In 1932, Nielsen developed a technique for external cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The National Research Council gave support to this method in 1951, but it has today been replaced by mouth to mouth resuscitation.
Nielsen died in Hellerup near Copenhagen on January 25, 1955.