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Tokyo Olympics handball in review: France does the double

Tokyo Olympics handball in review: France does the double
Posted at 4:14 AM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 06:48:04-04

For the first time since 1984, both sets of handball gold medals are taking the same trip back home.

France finished on the top step of the podium in both the men's and women's handball tournaments in Tokyo this year, but that's about all that the two teams had in common. The men's team, who had played in three straight gold medal matches prior to Tokyo 2020, played their way back to the top. The women's team, on the other hand, did it for the first time in its history.

Both tournaments provided highlights, memories, and storylines that grabbed the attention of the world. But when the dust settled and the clock hit sixty minutes, it was "Allez les Bleus!", and La Marseillaise was played at two medal ceremonies in twenty-four hours..

Men's Competition

While France was looking for its third gold medal in four tries, it could've been argued that the French weren't even the favorites heading into the Olympic tournament. That title belonged to Denmark, who won the Handball World Championships in Egypt a few months prior.

And from the start, France and Denmark seemed on a collision course for each other. France topped Group A with a near perfect record -- its only loss was a meaningless Matchday 5 game against Norway -- and Denmark won Group B with an identical resume. A Matchday 5 loss to Sweden after the Danes had already secured top of the group meant both favorites entered the knockout stage with a blemish.

If results from the final matchday of the group stage had people concerned, those concerns were thrown out the window right away. France cruised to a 42-28 win over Bahrain in the quarterfinal, Denmark beat Norway 31-25, and both won their semifinal ties by a score of 27-23 -- inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, but an interesting oddity right before their heavyweight clash in the gold medal match.

The final was a rematch of the final from Rio 2016, and it was as advertised. France took control in the first half and went into the break with a 14-10 lead, but the world champions stormed back in the final thirty minutes to cut into the French lead. It wasn't enough, though, and after a loss in the gold medal match to the same opponent five years ago, France was back on the top step.

SEE MORE: France avenges Rio 2016 loss, wins gold against Denmark

Paris Saint-Germain player Nedim Remili led the way for France in the final, as he did all tournament.

Dika Mem and Hugo Descat also showcased for the French, and Nikola Karabatic bolstered his resume as one of the greatest players of all time.

Medalists

Gold: France
Silver: Denmark
Bronze: Spain

FULL REPLAYS

WOMEN'S COMPETITION

Where the men's team was looking to reclaim its place at the top of the sport, the women's team was looking to get there for the first time.

It had come close -- a silver medal at Rio 2016 represented the closest it had ever gotten -- but le tricolore had never been flown over the first place spot on the podium at an Olympic women's handball medal ceremony.

Through the group stage, it seemed like that wasn't going to change this time around. The French only won twice in the group stage, went 2-1-2, and qualified third from Group B, meaning it was going to be an uphill climb to the final.

It was a climb that the players had no problem making.

SEE MORE: France moves into women's handball quarterfinals

The French got their knockout stage underway with a convincing 32-22 win over the Dutch and then squeezed past Sweden in the semifinal to get back to the gold medal match. Their opponent was a familiar one.

It was the ROC, who beat France in the gold medal match five years ago to claim Olympic gold.

This time, France came out the victors, using a strong second half to pull away and win 30-25. Allison Pineau, who was in the team that lost five years ago, led the way with seven goals.

Medalists:

Gold: France
Silver: ROC
Bronze: Norway

FULL REPLAYS

MEDAL TABLE

  Gold Silver Bronze
France 2 0 0
ROC 0 1 0
Denmark 0 1 0
Spain 0 0 1
Norway 0 0 1