Russian held off the challenge of France to win women's handball gold ©Getty Images

Russia won women's handball Olympic handball gold for the first time after clinching a 22-19 win over France in the final at the Future Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

Boasting a 100 per cent record heading into the gold medal match and buoyed by their overtime victory over Beijing 2008 and London 2012 winners Norway in the semi-finals, Russia began the gold medal match as favourites.

The four-time world champions lived up to expectations in the first half, as they moved into a 10-7 lead before the break.

An inspired start to the second half saw France pull themselves level at 14-14 but three goals without reply saw the match swing back into the Russian team’s favour.

Russia preserved the gap until the end of the contest to seal the 21-19 win and improve on their silver medal from Beijing 2008.

Anna Vyakhiereva top scored for Russia in the final with five goals, while Polina Kuznetsova and Daria Dmitrieva added four goals each.

Russia ended the tournament with a 100 per cent record from their matches ©Getty Images
Russia ended the tournament with a 100 per cent record from their matches ©Getty Images

"I was crying because this was my dream, my biggest dream," said Russia’s Anna Sen.

"I don't know how to go home because I still don't feel like an Olympic champion yet, it hasn't settled in yet.

"Everything is like a dream.

"Before the game we were thinking about our greatest handball players, the team that competed at Beijing 2008, but they couldn't manage to win the gold medal.

"I never imaged we could do what they could not."

Norway bounced back from their semi-final defeat to secure a podium finish for the third consecutive Games.

The Norwegian team dominated throughout the duration of the bronze medal match, beating The Netherlands’ 36-26.

France still have a chance for gold when their men's team take on Denmark tomorrow.