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

Hockey Wrap THUMB

From Belgium's first title to the Dutch women regaining their crown, we reflect on hockey's most memorable moments at Tokyo 2020, recap the medals, and look forward to Paris 2024. 

Hockey at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games delivered shock wins, great goals and shoot-outs which had viewers on the edge of their seats.

There was a first gold for the Belgian men courtesy of one of those shoot-outs, while the Dutch women reclaimed their title in emphatic fashion in the Oi Hockey Stadium.

Read on for a recap of the most memorable moments and the medals, plus who to look out for at Paris 2024 in just three years' time.

Top 5 hockey moments at Tokyo 2020

Here are some of the highlights from the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which took place in 2021.

1: Belgium add Olympic gold to World Cup crown

Belgium's men capped their ascent to the top of world hockey with gold in Tokyo.

It has been a remarkable decade for the Red Lions who only joined the top tier of nations thanks to their triumph at the 2011 Champions Challenge in South Africa.

That saw them become part of the old FIH World League, but they truly arrived when they went all the way to the final at Rio 2016 with only Argentina proving too gold.

Belgium claimed their first global crown at the 2018 World Cup in India, then became European champions the following year, and wrapped up their first FIH Pro League title months before Tokyo 2020.

Now they have a full set of titles, but it was a nail-biter of a final filled with drama.

After coming from behind in the quarter-finals to beat Spain 3-1, and to defeat India 5-2 in the semis, they were then pushed all the way by Australia.

Florent van Aubel put Belgium in front at the start of the third quarter, but Tom Wickham levelled early in the fourth to take the match into a shoot-out.

It was every bit as tense as one would expect with gold on the line, and Belgian goalie Vincent Vanasch rose to the occasion.

After two previous saves, one more from Australia's Jacob Whetton would secure the Olympic title with Belgium 3-2 in front.

Whetton fired wide and Belgium celebrated, but it went to review and a retake was ordered after an agonising four-minute wait with Vanasch adjudged to have impeded the Australian with his stick.

At the second time of asking, Vanasch cleanly hooked the ball away and his team-mates ran on again safe in the knowledge that they were Olympic champions.

Vanasch was far from the only hero in the squad with Alexander Hendrickx the tournament's top scorer with an incredible 14 goals.

Their Kiwi coach Shane McLeod has stepped down after six hugely successful years in charge, and there will be retirements after this long Olympic cycle, but Belgium are the undisputed kings of men's hockey.

2: Redemption for dominant Dutch

Having been denied a third consecutive gold in a shoot-out by Great Britain at Rio 2016, this was the chance for the Dutch women to make amends.

They did so in style.

The group stage was a procession with 18 goals scored against three conceded. They were only threatened by reigning champions Britain with the prolific Frederique Matla scoring the only goal late in the first quarter.

It was more of the same in the quarter-finals as they brushed aside New Zealand before a second meeting with Britain which was anything but close.

Two goals in the space of one second-quarter minute from Felice Albers and Marloes Keetels gave the Netherlands an advantage they never looked like giving up.

When Albers scored her second to make it 4-0 midway through the third quarter, it was all over as a contest with the Dutch cruising through to the final 5-1 and serving up ice cold revenge for that Rio defeat.

Any thoughts that they might relax ahead of the final against Argentina were soon extinguished as three late second-quarter goals - two from Caia van Maasakker - put the women in Orange well in charge.

Argentina pulled one back at the end of the period, but the Dutch held firm for the rest of the match and claimed their third title in four Games.

Captain Eva de Goede and Lidewij Welten were the two survivors from the Beijing 2008 success and now have three golds apiece.

They may not be around for Paris 2024, but the Dutch appear to have a conveyor belt of talent as they continue to lead the world in women's hockey.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Eva Roma Maria de Goede of Team Netherlands celebrates victory in the Women's Gold Medal match between Netherlands and Argentina on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Eva Roma Maria de Goede of Team Netherlands celebrates victory in the Women's Gold Medal match between Netherlands and Argentina on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

3: Long overdue medal for India, and so close to two

India was the outstanding nation in men's hockey in the 20th century, winning no fewer than eight Olympic titles with the last coming at Moscow 1980.

They had failed to win a medal since then, but 41 years of hurt came to an end in Tokyo.

After the ignominy of failing to qualify for Beijing 2008, and a succession of coaching hirings and firings, Graham Reid has finally harnessed the potential available to him and put together a squad capable of taking on the world.

The early signs were not especially encouraging as they had to withstand a late New Zealand onslaught to win their opener 3-2, before a thumping 7-1 reverse at the hands of Australia.

The players learned from that, upping the tempo in the middle of the field and winning their next three games to set up a quarter-final with Great Britain.

Having relied largely on Harmanpreet Singh and Varun Kumar from penalty corners, India stunned their opponents with a free-flowing game yielding three goals from open play and a 3-1 victory.

They even had hope in the semis against Belgium as two quick first-quarter strikes gave them a 2-1 lead, but the world champions came back strongly to score four unanswered goals on their way to the Olympic title.

That meant a bronze medal playoff against Germany which turned out to be an absolute thriller.

The Germans led 3-1 with five minutes left in the second quarter, but then came an India blitz with four goals in eight minutes either side of half-time.

The first two came via Hardik Singh’s rebound and a Harmanpreet flick from penalty corners, before Rupinder Pal Singh converted a penalty stroke after the break and Simranjeet Singh’s second goal of the game made it 5-3.

There was a nervous ending after Lukas Windfeder reduced the gap to one, but India held on for a first Olympic medal in their players’ lifetimes.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Players of Team India celebrate after winning the Men's Bronze medal match between Germany and India on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Players of Team India celebrate after winning the Men's Bronze medal match between Germany and India on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

India showed that they are a dual threat in hockey with the women coming agonisingly close to a first Olympic medal.

Despite opening their campaign with three defeats, India rallied to make the quarter-finals where Gurjit Kaur’s deflected strike saw them stun Australia’s previously unbeaten Hockeyroos 1-0.

It was a famous win with goalkeeper Savita at the top of her game.

Gurjit scored again at the start of the semi-final with Argentina, but two goals from Noel Barrionuevo proved enough for the South Americans.

That sent India into the bronze medal playoff against Rio 2016 champions Great Britain who had won their group clash 4-1.

This was a far closer affair with India coming from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 at half-time thanks to two goals from Gurjit and one from Vandana Katariya.

But Hollie Pearne-Webb levelled, and Grace Balsdon scored with 12 minutes to go to dash Indian hopes.

The tournament proved that India’s women are very much a force to be reckoned, but the first job for Hockey India is to fill the sizeable hole left by the departure of coach Sjoerd Marijne, who is returning to the Netherlands to be with his family.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Lily Owsley of Team Great Britain consoles Navneet Kaur and Vandana Katariya of Team India following the Women's Bronze medal match between Great Britain and India on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Lily Owsley of Team Great Britain consoles Navneet Kaur and Vandana Katariya of Team India following the Women's Bronze medal match between Great Britain and India on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

4: The return of 'Las Leonas'

Argentinian women’s hockey is very much alive and kicking judging by events in Tokyo.

Las Leonas won just two group games out of five before going down to the Netherlands in the quarter-finals at Rio 2016, the first Games since the retirement of the great Luciana Aymar.

Five years later, they found the Dutch too good again but this time it was in the final.

An opening 3-0 loss to New Zealand seemed to serve as a wake-up call with Argentina then beating Spain, China and Japan to book their quarter-final spot.

In the last eight, they met a German side who had impressed until that point. But it all unravelled for the Europeans when Sonja Zimmermann was shown a green card early in the second quarter.

Agustina Albertarrio gleefully converted Rocio Sanchez’s cross to put Argentina ahead and then, just before the end of the two-minute suspension, Maria Jose Granatto’s deflected penalty corner strike made it 2-0.

There was no coming back from that with youngster Valentina Raposo sealing a 3-0 win and a place in the semi-finals against India.

After Gurjit Kaur had given India the lead, Argentina’s captain Noel Barrionuevo stepped up for her team.

The 37-year-old veteran of four Olympic Games scored twice from penalty corners, one either side of half-time, to book her side’s spot in the final.

After bronze at Beijing 2008 and silver at London 2012, could Barrionuevo end her international career with gold in Tokyo?

The answer was no as the Netherlands cruised to gold, but the future is bright for Argentina with 11 Olympic debutants in their 18-strong squad, most of whom won the 2016 junior world title in Chile.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 04: Maria Noel Barrionuevo of Team Argentina celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's second goal during the Women's Semifinal match between Argentina and India on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 04: Maria Noel Barrionuevo of Team Argentina celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's second goal during the Women's Semifinal match between Argentina and India on day twelve of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

5: Australia men so close to a second gold

The Australian men’s hockey team won medals at six consecutive Olympic Games before a quarter-final exit at Rio 2016. But the Kookaburras bounced back in Tokyo.

They almost had a second gold 17 years after their first, but Belgium denied them in a shoot-out.

After four wins and a draw in the group phase, including a 7-1 demolition of India, they needed a shoot-out to get past the Netherlands after a 2-2 draw in which Tom Wickham scored two field goals.

They faced another high-quality European outfit in the semis with Germany taking an early lead. But the Aussies were the better side and deservedly won 3-1 to reach their first final since the glory of Athens 2004.

The third European giant proved just too hard to crack with Wickham scoring again before Belgium’s shoot-out triumph for gold.

At 31, the forward may be around for Paris 2024 while 34-year-old co-captain Eddie Ockenden hinted before Tokyo that he would aim for a fifth Games, telling AAP that winning gold was “a driving ambition”.

Goalkeeper Andrew Charter, who was instrumental in their campaign, will be 37 come Paris.

With a largely youthful squad, expect the Kookaburras to be there or thereabouts for years to come.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Tom Joseph Wickham of Team Australia celebrates with teammate Tim Brand after scoring their team's first goal during the Men's Gold Medal match between Australia and Belgium on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Tom Joseph Wickham of Team Australia celebrates with teammate Tim Brand after scoring their team's first goal during the Men's Gold Medal match between Australia and Belgium on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

One last look

In the men’s game, Thomas Briels is perhaps the biggest name bowing out of the international game.

Briels, who turns 34 in August, played in his fourth Olympic Games having originally been left out of the Red Lions’ squad.

The man that captained Belgium to the 2018 world title was added when rosters were expanded from 16 to 18 just before the competition, with only 16 named in the matchday squad.

Great Britain captain Adam Dixon has retired from international hockey after 290 appearances and winning 14 medals including the 2009 European title with England.

South Africa’s veteran goalkeeper Erasmus 'Rassie' Pieterse has also called it a day after competing at his second Games.

The 37-year-old, who played at London 2012, made nine saves to help his side to a famous 4-3 win over Germany in the group stages.

As well as Noel Barrionuevo, Argentina’s women look set to bid farewell to two more Leonas stalwarts in Sofia Maccari and goalkeeper Belen Succi.

Australia will almost certainly say goodbye to their 2019 FIH Goalkeeper of the Year Rachael Lynch who turned 35 in July.

For the victorious Dutch, three-time gold medallists Eva de Goede and Lidewij Welten have hinted that they probably won’t be around for Paris 2024 with the latter telling RTL Nieuws, “I don't think I'll be there in Paris. I don't plan to stop now but I don’t know yet when I will.”

De Goede, 32, took a sabbatical after the Rio final shoot-out defeat to Britain but soon rediscovered her love for the game and returned better than ever, claiming the World Player of the Year award in 2018 and 2019.

She led the Dutch in Tokyo as they regained their crown but, as with Naomi van As, Ellen Hoog and Maartje Paumen who all retired after Rio, there is talent in abundance waiting in the wings.

A 32, drag-flick specialist Caia van Maasakker is also a doubt for Paris in three years’ time.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Eva Roma Maria de Goede and Lidewij Marsia Maria Welten of Team Netherlands pose with their Gold Medals during the Victory Ceremony following the Women's Gold Medal match between Netherlands and Argentina on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 06: Eva Roma Maria de Goede and Lidewij Marsia Maria Welten of Team Netherlands pose with their Gold Medals during the Victory Ceremony following the Women's Gold Medal match between Netherlands and Argentina on day fourteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Oi Hockey Stadium on August 06, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
2021 Getty Images

Hello Paris 2024

India’s men team is full of young talent from 25-year-old drag-flick expert Harmanpreet Singh, to 24-year-old midfield wizard Simranjeet Singh.

The tournament’s top scorer, Alexander Hendrickx, is the premier exponent of the drag-flick and the Belgian will turn 31 during Paris 2024.

Women’s top scorer Frederique Matla is only 24 with her equally impressive Dutch colleague Felice Albers just 21.

While Argentina are losing some big names, 2017 FIH Player of the Year Delfina Merino will lead Las Leonas to Paris with young forward Julieta Jankunas and Agustina Gorzelany set to make second Games appearances.

When and where to watch hockey replays on Olympics.com

The answer is here: olympics.com/tokyo2020-replays

When do the top hockey players compete next?

The third edition of the FIH Women's Pro League starts on 6 October with Olympic champions Netherlands meeting neighbours Belgium.

There are nine teams in the competition with the Europeans joined by Argentina, Australia, China, England, Germany, New Zealand and the United States.

The third edition of the FIH Men's Pro League starts on 16 October with Tokyo 2020 heroes Belgium facing Germany.

The other seven teams in the tournament are Argentina, Australia, England, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Spain.

Full medals list in Hockey at Tokyo 2020 in 2021

Men's hockey

Gold - Belgium

Silver - Australia

Bronze - India

Women's hockey

Gold - Netherlands

Silver - Argentina

Bronze - Great Britain