Hungary return to Olympics after decade absence, Spain and Norway secure berth

(L-R) Veronica Egebakken Kristiansen and Stine Bredal Oftedal of Norway celebrate during the 2017 IHF Women's Handball World Championship final match against France (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/Getty Images)
(L-R) Veronica Egebakken Kristiansen and Stine Bredal Oftedal of Norway celebrate during the 2017 IHF Women's Handball World Championship final match against France (Photo by Oliver Hardt/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The final six spots for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Women’s Handball competition were confirmed on Sunday (21 March)

Nervous waits, tight scorelines and heart-breaks are just three ways to describe the 2020 IHF Women's Olympic Qualification Tournaments over the weekend.

But nonetheless, the teams set to participate in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Women's Handball Tournament in 2021 have been decided.

Before the final matches on Sunday (21 March) concluded the qualification tournament, Rio 2016 gold medallist Russian Olympic Committee, Sweden and Hungary had booked their tickets to Tokyo 2020 on Saturday (20 March).

Spain, Montenegro and Norway would become the final three teams to secure qualification.

They join Angola (2019 African Qualification Tournament), Brazil (2019 Pan American Games), France (2018 European Championships, Japan (hosts), Netherlands (2019 World Championships) and Republic of Korea (2019 Asian Qualification Tournament), who have already qualified for the Olympic Games this summer.

Norway's nervous wait, Montenegro qualify

Norway may be one of the most successful Olympic teams ever with six medals, but they were made to wait to see if they had qualified for Tokyo 2020.

It was the first time the Nordic nation had found themselves in the Olympic Qualification Tournament after finishing fifth at the 2018 European Championships and fourth at 2019 World Championships.

After winning their final match of Tournament 3 against Romania on Saturday, Norway, who had a shock loss to Montenegro on day one, had to wait to see if they were going to their fourth consecutive Olympic Games.

It would come down to the match between Montenegro and Romania on the final day with Norway needing any result other than a five-goal victory from Romania to qualify.

With Norway leaving Pogordica, on two separate flights; one for those returning to Norway and the other travelling to Hungary, they were in for a tense wait.

But fate was on the side of the Norwegians as Romania beat Montenegro 28-25. And despite their win, Romania, on goal difference, would miss out on qualifying for the Olympics by a whisker.

With qualification now secured, Norway have the chance to equal Denmark's record of three Olympic gold medals this summer meanwhile Montenegro will make their third consecutive Olympics appearance.

Hungary return to Olympic stage

Following a 13-year absence from the Olympics, Hungary will be back at the Games this summer.

Their fourth place finish at Beijing 2008 was the last time Hungary's women's national team had a taste of the Olympics. But their seventh place finish at the European Championships in 2018 was enough to earn them a chance to qualify through the 2020 Olympic Qualification Tournaments.

Their 31:23 win over Serbia after a win over Kazakhstan in their opening match was enough to secure qualification. Reigning Olympic champions Russian Olympic Committee would finish top of the group, going through the tournament undefeated including beating Hungary on the final day.

"Our huge dream has come true today, unless there is some shocking surprise in the next clash," head coach Gábor Elek told his national federation after securing qualification.

"We really wanted to win today... This is not only the success of 19 players and the professional staff, but also of the entire Hungarian handball. We received a lot of help, we were able to prepare in good conditions, and we thank the organisers of the Hungarian championship and the clubs who helped and supported us in everything."

Spain seal Olympic berth

It will be Spain's third consecutive Olympic appearance after London 2012, where they clinched bronze, and Rio 2016 (sixth).

However, their ticket to Tokyo 2020 came at the expense of South American side Argentina, who they beat 31:16 to top their group.

For Spanish goalkeeper Silvia Navarro, who celebrated her 42nd birthday on 20 March, told the Spanish Handball Federation it was the "best birthday present of her whole life".

"It is the only thing that I asked; the objective was to get a pass to the Olympic Games," she added.

Spain have been on the rise since 2019, where they had their best-ever finish at a World Championships, finishing with a silver medal behind the Netherlands. While their recent result, a ninth place finish, at the European Championships might be a blip in their recent records.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s handball tournament will take place between 24 July to 8 August 2021 at Yoyogi National Stadium.