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What we learned: Handball wrap-up from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

A French men's and women's double wrote a new chapter of Olympic handball history at Tokyo 2020, relive the best moments and get a medal recap, where to watch highlights, replays and more.

9 min
Gold medalists Team France react with their gold medals during the medal ceremony for Men's Handball on day fifteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yoyogi National Stadium on August 07, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
(Picture by 2021 Getty Images)

France won the men's and women's gold medals at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after a historic handball competition.

The Tokyo 2020 finals were a repeat of the Rio 2016 finals - the first time that has ever happened - but the Olympic déjà vu ended there:

France were silver medallists in both competitions five years ago, but took over the top of the podium in the Japanese capital, the men's team won a record third gold medal while it was a first Olympic triumph for the women.

That meant a third gold medal for G.O.A.T. Nikola Karabatic in the men's competition, leading Les Experts alongside next-gen stars Nedim Remili, Dika Mem and Hugo Descat.

France's women held up their half of a historic double, writing their own story with a thrilling ride to gold, led by 20-year-old line player Pauletta Foppa who scored 34 goals from 42 shots in Tokyo.

In the final Allison Pineau and goalkeeper Cleopatre Darleux also had the game of their lives.

And there was plenty of history made elsewhere too as Egypt and Bahrain stood tall for the non-European teams and Spain's living legend Raúl Entrerríos added to his legacy with a last-minute goal worth an Olympic medal.

Read on for the competition's Top 5 moments, highlights and where you can watch replays free and on-demand.

Highlights

The highlights and replays of the Tokyo 2020 handball events are available here on demand: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

Handball's Top 5 Moments from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

1. Karabatic wins clash of the handball titans

At 37 years of age it looked like a torn ACL in October 2020 could keep France's totemic centre-back out of a fifth Olympics, but he battled back to play a crucial role in France's unprecedented third Olympic triumph.

Karabatic and France lost out to Denmark and Hansen at Rio 2016, and fell short in the semi-finals at the Egypt Worlds too.

"The last couple of years we were always short a game, so I think we had unfinished business," Nikola's brother Luka Karabatic said after the Tokyo Olympic final. "It was driving us to work more and give more and that's how we succeeded."

It was a French team effort as they bombarded Niklas Landin's goal in the final, taking 50 shots to Denmark's 39, with 11 players on the scoresheet.

Nedim Remili topped the French scoring chart in the final with five, while Hugo Descat and Dika Mem had three each.

But it was France's old hand Karabatic who set the tone, his beastly defence in the final somehow managed to stall a Mikkel Hansen in Monster Mode, Hansen had 12 goals in the semi-final and nine in the final.

Karabatic's performances and a third gold medal helped cement his status as handball's G.O.A.T.

Hansen's contribution can't be diminished either though, his nine goals in the final made him Tokyo 2020 top scorer on 61 goals, setting a new record in men's handball at a single Olympic Games, surpassing the Republic of Korea's YOON Kyung-shin, who scored 58 in Athens in 2004.

A sport can have two G.O.A.T.s, can't it?

French men's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to gold

Here's how Les Experts won a third gold medal.

Group stage

France 33-27 Argentina

France 34-29 Brazil

France 30-29 Germany

France 36-31 Spain

Norway 32-29 France

Quarter-final

France 42-28 Bahrain

Semi-final

France 27-23 Egypt

Final

France 25-23 Denmark

Denmark men's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to silver

Group Stages

Denmark 47-30 Japan

Denmark 32-27 Egypt

Denmark 31-21 Bahrain

Denmark 34-28 Portugal

Sweden 33-30 Denmark

Quarter-finals

Denmark 31-25 Norway

Semi-final

Denmark -27-23 Spain

Final

France 25-23 Denmark

2. French women claim maiden Olympic title

Rewind five years and it's Russia crying tears of joy on top of the podium after a 22-19 win, but Les Bleus were not to be denied this time 'round.

A 30-25 victory was well-deserved as France led for most of the match with Pauletta Foppa on fire scoring a perfect seven from seven.

Allison Pineau added another seven goals and goalkeeper Cleopatre Darleux had nine saves, rewarding the faith of coach Olivier Krumbholz, while All-Star centre-back Grâce Zaadi was solid throughout.

For the ROC, an opening match draw to Brazil before a loss to Sweden made it look like their Olympic title defence was going to fizzle out before it even began but they suddenly lit the fuse against Hungary, France and Spain, claiming an unlikely silver.

Polina Vedekhina continued her outstanding Olympics with a game-high seven goals in the final while Olympic gold medallists from Rio Daria Dmitrieva had six and Anna Vyakhireva four.

The ROC had expended a lot of energy overcoming Euro 2020 champs Norway by a single goal in the semi-final in one of the most memorable matches of the Games.

Nora Mørk scored 10 goals from 12 shots but Norway's other stars didn't hit the heights they had at the recent Euros, Henny Reistad had 2/6 and Stine Oftedal 4/6, as Rio gold medallist Anna Vyakhiereva put on an Olympic clinic scoring nine goals.

France were relentless in the final, and the ROC had nothing left in the tank.

French women's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to gold

Here's how Les Bleus won their first gold medal.

Group stage

France 30-29 Hungary

Spain 28-25 France

France 28-28 Sweden

ROC 28-27 France

France 29-22 Brazil

Quarter-final

France 32-22 Netherlands

Semi-final

France 29-27 Sweden

Final

France 30-25 ROC

ROC women's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to silver

Gold at Rio 2016, it was silver at Tokyo, here's how they won it:

Group stage

ROC 24-24 Brazil

Sweden 36-24 ROC

ROC 38-31 Hungary

ROC 28-27 France

ROC 34-31 Spain

Quarter-final

ROC 32-26 Montenegro

Semi-final

ROC 27-26 Norway

Final

France 30-25 ROC

3. Egypt, Bahrain, write handball history, inspire rest of the world

Egypt's men penned their own chapter of history in the Japanese capital becoming the first African team to make an Olympic semi-final.

The Pharaohs beat European powerhouses Portugal, Sweden, and Germany on their way to the semi-final and only just missed out on a medal.

This golden generation was just one win from an Olympic podium and would have become the first non-European team to reach those heights since South Korea in 1988.

Unfortunately, the Egyptian Cinderella story didn't end on the podium, a medal was a step too far for the Pharoahs as they lost 27-23 to eventual gold medallists France in the semi-final, then to Spain in the bronze medal match.

Egypt can hold their heads high, however, and with young stars like Yahia Omar and Yehia Elderaa, added to experienced campaigners Ali Zein and Mo Sanad, the future's bright and Paris 2024 is just three years away.

Bahrain also made headlines back home winning their first ever handball match at an Olympics, then made it into the quarter-finals, writing headlines that can only do great things for the future of the sport outside of Europe.

That, and Snoop Dogg and Kevin Hart getting in on the handball fun!

4. Norway women claim bronze

Favourites for many after a stellar Euro 2020 campaign and Norwegian club Vipers winning a first ever Champions League powered by Mørk and Reistad.

In the end it wasn't to be but Norway bounced back from a crushing single-goal defeat in the semi-final to the ROC by taking Sweden apart in the bronze medal final.

A 36-19 victory gave us another Mørk masterclass as she added 8 more goals to her Olympic tally with Kari Brattset Dale also erupting to score eight.

Norway's superstar score 52/72 in Tokyo, and finished as the competition's top scorer.

The Swedes were playing for a medal for the first time in its women's history and were led by Jenny Carlson and Johanna Westberg who scored four goals each, but that first Olympic medal will have to wait.

Norway women's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to bronze

Bronze at Rio 2016, and another convincing bronze medal victory in Tokyo, here's how they did it:

Group stage

Norway 39-27 Republic of Korea

Norway 30-21 Angola

Norway 35-23 Montenegro

Norway 29-27 Netherlands

Norway 37-25 Japan

Quarter-final

Norway 26-22 Hungary

Semi-final

ROC 27-26 Norway

Bronze Medal Match

Norway 36-19 Sweden

5. Raúl Entrerríos bows out in style

Another living legend of handball, Spain's Raúl Entrerríos ended his career with a goal worth an Olympic medal.

The 40-year-old captain scored the clincher with Spain 32-31 up against an incessant Egypt, the Spanish hero's goal made it 33-31 and it was over for the Pharoahs, the bronze going to Spain.

"I couldn't have imagined a better ending," said Entrerríos, who has been the soul of the side for almost two decades, setting the tone, leading by example.

He won the the World Championships in 2005, the Euros twice, and two Olympic medals, a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 to match his bronze at Beijing 2008.

"He's the greatest Spanish player of all time," goalkeeper Gonzalo Pérez de Vargas said post-match.

Usually so calm, so measured, the moment got to Entrerríos and he couldn't say anything more.

He didn't need to.

Spain men's handball results at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Road to bronze

It was disappointment in the semis but joy in the bronze medal for Spain, here's how they did it:

Group stage

Spain 28-27 Germany

Spain 28-27 Norway

Spain 32-25 Brazil

France 36-31 Spain

Spain 36-27 Argentina

Quarter-final

Spain 34-33 Sweden

Semi-final

Denmark 27-23 Spain

Bronze Medal Match

Spain 33-31 Egypt

Salut Paris 2024

Now we're only three years from the next Olympic Games at Paris 2024 and there's already so much to look forward to.

After their two stunning performances in Tokyo could we see Karabatic and Hansen go at it again?

Not impossible, but the future of the game is already here:

22-year-old Dane Matthias Gidsel was named competition MVP, and 23-year-old Egyptian right-back Yahia Omar, 24-year-old right wing Aleix Gómez, and 26-year-old Nedim Remili made the All-Star team.

Egypt will be out to earn a first podium place again in Paris, and reigning Olympic champions France will be hard to stop in both the men's and women's competition in front of home fans.

So can Norway mount another challenge for gold; will ROC recover from a devastating loss in the final and come back stronger; after a taste of the golden lifestyle will France's women want more?

Will Nora Mørk and Stine Oftedal line up together again in Paris; will Elena Mikhailychenko become the player she promises to; can Sweden improve and reach a first podium, can the Netherlands find their groove again?

We can't wait to find out!

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