Danish 2020 Olympics medal candidates – No guarantee of success

In a few weeks, the Olympic flame will be lit at the “National Stadium” in Tokyo. Due to the global pandemic, the XXXII Olympic Games will be a very special event, as the vast majority of Japanese want the 2020 Tokyo Olympics either postponed or completely canceled. In addition, no spectators without Japan will have the opportunity to attend the competitions and athletes, coaches and managers will be subject to a wide range of restrictions in relation to their behavior, both inside and outside the Olympic village.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held for financial reasons

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were to be held last summer, are being held solely for financial reasons. The Japanese government cannot legally cancel the Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) owns the event, while Tokyo is contractually obliged to host the Games. It is estimated that a cancellation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would result in a total loss of $ 17 billion. In addition, the IOC will be able to face unmanageable lawsuits, both from commercial partners and not least TV companies such as NBCUniversial, BBC and Eurosport, which have exclusive rights to live TV broadcasts from the Games. There is also no doubt that the lack of revenue from the IOC in connection with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would mean that both the majority of international federations and national Olympic committees would be financially insolvent if the Games were canceled.

Great uncertainty about the individual athletes ‘and teams’ current sporting level

Also from a sporting perspective, more than one question can be asked about the value of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Over the past 18 months, all 33 international federations represented in Tokyo have – to a greater or lesser extent – postponed or canceled both World Championships and Continental Championships such as European Championships, World Cups and Olympic qualifiers. In addition, training camps and other preparations that have been changed or canceled have created a lot of uncertainty and frustrations for athletes, coaches and managers. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will thus be radically different from previous Olympics.

Very big difference in medal chances in the individual sports

Regardless of these unfair conditions for the athletes in several areas, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will include 16 intense competition days, where 10,500 athletes from 204 nations compete for medals, honors and glory in 339 disciplines. Denmark has qualified athletes and teams in 16 sports – exactly the same number as at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Archery, judo and skateboarding, which is a new sport on the Olympic program, have replaced tennis, triathlon and football (men). However, there is a very big difference in the Danish medal chances in the 16 sports. Past World Championship results and continuity at a high international level are crucial for Olympic medal potential. Even for the biggest medal candidates, there is no guarantee of sporting success at the Games. This is partly due to that the Olympics differ markedly from international championships such as the World Championship and the European Championships. The Olympics are only held every four years, the media interest – especially towards “smaller” sports such as rowing, kayaking and shooting – are far bigger than usual and all the athletes live together across sports in the Olympic village. For these reasons, it is also extremely rare for Danish athletes or teams to win medals as Olympic debutants. The most important criteria for Olympic medal candidates are, in my opinion, the athletes ‘and teams’ WC results and especially the continuity of achievements at a high international level within the last 4 years. Athletes and teams that have won WC medals or at least achieved top-8 results at the World Championships, have shown that they can “fight for the medals”. And then analyzes of Olympic results over time show that “only” two medals are realized based on 5 potential medal candidates.

An official target and an “unofficial” list of candidates

The Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and Team Denmark’s official target at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are 8-10 medals. But an “unofficial” list has also been prepared with 20-25 athletes and teams who are medal candidates. Through dialogue, DIF, Team Denmark and the federations have agreed in advance which named athletes and teams in their opinion have the greatest chance of medals and thus also prioritized resources differently in relation to all the athletes and teams, both before and during the Games. There are many different reasons why DIF, Team Denmark and the federations fail to publish the “unofficial list” of medal candidates – and leave it to the media, TV viewers and others’ more or less qualified guesses. But let me name some of the athletes and teams that, in my opinion, have the greatest medal chances in Tokyo.

The team pursuit and Mørkøv/Hansen as the biggest medal candidates

In my opinion, Denmark has the vast majority and some of the largest in cycling – and especially in track cycling. The biggest medal candidates are the team pursuit, which at the most recent the UCI World Championship in February 2020 became World Champions and set no less than three world records. The team, which consisted of Lasse Norman Hansen, Julius Johansen, Frederik Rodenberg and Rasmus Pedersen, has also shown great stability at the WC 2018 (silver) and WC 2019 (bronze) since the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team won bronze. In addition to Denmark, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand and Italy also have good medal chances. Among the biggest Danish medal candidates in Tokyo are also 36-year-old Michael Mørkøv and 29-year-old Lasse Norman Hansen. Both Mørkøv (2008) and Hansen (2012 and 2016) have previously won Olympic medals and at the WC 2020 they became the supreme world champions in madison. Mørkøv and Hansen’s great routine and technical skills make them, in my opinion … gold favorites.

Reigning Olympic and World Champions will always be (big) favorites

As reigning Olympic Champions (2016) and double World Champions (2019 and 2021), the men’s team handball are also among Denmark’s biggest medal candidates. The team has an incredible width and top quality in all positions on the field, both goalkeeper, defense and attack. The Olympic tournament, where as many as 8 out of 12 teams qualify for the quarterfinals after 5 group matches, means that the matches in my opinion only become “really serious” in the quarter finals and forwards. Denmark is (big) favorite for the gold medals, but Spain, France and our Nordic neighbors – Sweden and Norway – both can and would very much like to challenge the Danish national team. But I think the mens team handball manage to win at least a medal.

Two mentally strong girls can win Olympic medals on the water

I also believe in the Danish Olympic medal in sailing, where especially Anne-Marie Rindom (Laser Radial), who has just turned 30, is one of Denmark’s biggest medal candidates. Anne-Marie participates for the 3rd time at the Olympics and she won a bronze medal in 2016. In addition, Anne-Marie has a number of international top results, including World Championship bronze medal (2018) and World Championship gold medal (2019). The latter performance meant i.a. that Rindom in 2019 was named the world’s best sailor across all Olympic boat types by World Sailing – as the first Dane ever. I believe that Anne-Marie Rindom’s biggest competitors in Tokyo will be the reigning Olympic Champion and 4-time World Champion Marit Bouwmeester from the Netherlands and Emma Plasschart from Belgium, who won World Championship in 2018.

Kayaker Emma Aastrand Jørgensen, who won Olympic silver medal in Rio, is also among Denmark’s biggest medal candidates. And she even has, in my opinion, a medal chance in both K1 200 and K1 500. Emma always shows – like Anne-Marie Rindom – an incredibly high bottom level and great mental strength – at international championships. Her biggest competitor for the medals in Tokyo will undoubtedly be Lisa Carrington from New Zealand, who is a double Olympic Champion (2012 and 2016) as well as World Champion in K1 200 at the last 7 World Championships. Also Danuta Kozák from Hungary and Volka Khudzenka from Belarus in K1 500 and Marta Walczykiewicz from Poland on K1 200 will in my opinion challenge the 25-year-old Jørgensen from Maribo.

The tall native from Funen against one of Japan’s biggest medal candidates

Denmark also has proud Olympic traditions in badminton, most recently with Olympic bronze medal in 2016 to Viktor Axelsen. I also think that Viktor, who became World Champion in 2017, has really good medal chances in Tokyo, i.a. due to a seeding to a semifinal. The biggest favorites for the Olympic medals – besides Axelsen – are in my opinion Kento Momota with a very enthusiastic home crowd behind him, Chou Tien Chen from Taiwan and Anthony Ginting from Indonesia. Anders Antonsen (World Championship silver medal 2019), who is also seeded for a semi-final, may surprise the other medal candidates.

Great chance for the first Olympic medal for the Faroe Islands

Denmark has won medals in rowing at the last 6 Olympic Games. The biggest medal chances in Tokyo must definitely be awarded to Sverri E. Nielsen in singles sculls. The Faroese, which i.a. has won World Championship silver medal in 2019, has had a very marked progress in the last 2-3 years. Among his biggest competitors are the reigning World Champion Oliver Zeidler from Germany and Kjetil Borch from Norway, but the Faroese seem purposeful and highly motivated to win the first ever Olympic medal for the proud kingdom of islands in the middle of the Atlantic.

The battle for the split seconds and the Olympic medals

The last of the biggest Danish medal candidates is in my opinion the swimmer Pernille Blume, who very surprisingly won Olympic gold nedal in 2016 in the 50 meter freestyle. Blume has also achieved good results after the Olympic triumph in Rio, i.a. 4th places at both the World Championship 2017 and the World Championship 2019. The Olympic final, which swims on Sunday 1’st August, will be decided within a few hundred or maybe thousandths of a second. And among the candidates for the medals are – in addition to Blume – Sara Sjöström from Sweden, who won three Olympic medals in Rio, Ranomi Kromowidjojo from the Netherlands and the two Australians: Emma McKeon and Cate Campell, who have swum in the two fastest times of the year in 50 meters freestyle.

Denmark wins at least ten medals – and there will also be surprises

DIF and Team Denmark “… expect that the 8-10 medals will be won in cycling, handball, sailing, kayaking, badminton, swimming, horseback riding, rowing and shooting”. I believe that Denmark will win at least 10 Olympic medals, but not in more than 7 sports. There will be some of the above athletes and teams who do not come home with medals. And there will certainly also be athletes and teams who (very) surprisingly come home with medals – maybe even some who are not on the “unofficial” list of potential medal candidates. It is not least these surprises that make the Olympics something completely extraordinary – also for the athletes.

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