Sports Year 2022: World-class performances and very few top-8 ranking points

The FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar is the last international sporting event of the year. And with Denmark’s worst World Cup result ever, it is now possible to evaluate the Danish athletes’ and team’s results in the past 12 months. The Sports Confederation of Denmark, Team Denmark and the media will probably highlight a number of world-class performances in the coming weeks, but several Olympic sports such as sailing, rowing, badminton and swimming have far from achieved satisfactory results this year.

Comparative analyzes of elite sports are complex

It is difficult to prepare comparative analyzes of the individual nations’ results in elite sports. This is primarily due to a number of methodological challenges: Which Olympic and non-Olympic sports should be included in the analysis? Which international competitions – World Championships and European Championships, World Cups and special events such as Grand Slam tournaments in tennis, Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and Vuelta e Espana in cycling, Formula 1 in motorsport or the PGA Tour in golf – should the analysis include? How should the weighting of medals – gold, silver and bronze – be in relation to top-6, top-8 or top-10 positions? How should the analysis compare sports with many disciplines such as rowing, cycling and swimming with sports with only one discipline such as handball and ice hockey? And must the various sports such as football, athletics, skateboarding and climbing weighted differently or equally in relation to the individual sports’ international prestige, economy, media coverage or something else?

Several unique world-class performances

In my opinion, the greatest Danish sporting performances in 2022 have been Jonas Vingegård’s Tour de France victory, Viktor Axelsen and Anne-Marie Rindom’s World Championships in badminton and sailing, as well as the dressage national team’s team gold medal and Cathrine Laudrup-Dufour’s silver medal at the World Championships at home in Herning. With this year’s WC titles, both Axelsen and Rindom have established themselves as the biggest Danish sports profiles of the past decade, with Olympic gold medals (2020), Olympic bronze medals (2016) and related two and three WC gold medals. And the two world-class athletes are – together with the track riders, the dressage riders and the two national handball teams – currently among Denmark’s strongest Olympic medal candidates in Paris 2024. The wrestler Turpal Bisultanov (WC silver medal), who has not yet obtained Danish citizenship and the two EC medals in team handball should also be mentioned as strong sporting performances in 2022. Finally, it will be exciting in the future to follow the only 19-year-old tennis player Holger Rune, who has worked his way into the world’s top 10 in record time. This year’s 9 WC medals in Olympic disciplines are satisfactory, whereas the number of top-8 ranking points is surprisingly low.

A top-8 position at the World Championships is a good indicator of world class

The top-8 position at the World Championships is a good indicator of athletes and teams that are close to the fight for medals. It is also the indicator used by many nations’ Olympic Committees when awarding direct and indirect support to athletes, teams and federations. Top-8 ranking points are also used by the Danish Institute for Sports Studies (Idan), which, in addition to the number of WC medals in Olympic disciplines, uses world rankings (e.g. in tennis, golf, swimming and athletics) or European Championship (handball) this year without holding the World Championships in order to better compare all years.

Lowest top-8 ranking points in more than a decade

Danish athletes and teams have only achieved 87 top-8 ranking points in Olympic disciplines, which is the lowest number of points in more than a decade. The number of top-8 ranking points has usually been 120-140 in the past decade, with 151 ranking points in 2012 as the record year. There are a surprising number of Olympic sports – e.g. sailing, rowing, badminton and swimming – which this year have delivered (far) below average results. These sports are historically associated with many Olympic and World Championship medals. For that reason, it is also sports where Team Denmark “invests” a great deal of support kroner. All four confederations – Danish Sailing Union, Danish Rowing Federation, Badminton Denmark and Danish Swimming – receive DKK 6-8 million annually in support from Team Denmark. This year’s results in these federations should give rise to critical evaluations and, not least, targeted actions towards Olympic qualification, which in the vast majority of sports will take place in 2023.

Worse international ranking than Lithuania, Estonia and Slovakia

The extremely modest number of top-8 ranking points is also reflected in Denmark’s ranking on international comparative analyses, such as “Greatest Sporting Nations” and “World Sport Ranking”. Denmark is ranked this year as No. 44 among all the world’s more than 200 nations and as No. 25 in relation to number of inhabitants on the “Greatest Sporting Nations”, which includes 98 Olympic and non-Olympic disciplines. The rankings are significantly worse than both 2014 (No. 34 and No. 14) and 2018 (No. 31 and No. 12), which are the most relevant comparative years. The ranking as number 25 in relation to the number of inhabitants also means that in 2022 Denmark is placed worse on the international ranking than nations such as Lithuania, Estonia and Slovakia.

Great focus on Olympic qualification in 2023

Both DIF, Team Denmark and the Olympic federations currently have great focus on Olympic qualification for Paris 2024, which for many top athletes are the “dream target” and for the individual federations the most important “exam” in relation to future financial support from both Team Denmark and commercial partners. There is no doubt that international competition in virtually all sports is significantly sharpened. If Denmark is to achieve a double-digit number of Olympic medals, which at the two recent Olympic Games, the results – especially of the second best athletes and teams in many federations – must be significantly better in 2023 than in the past year.


You can get further information on the following websites:

Greatest Sporting Nations –

World Sport Ranking –

The Danish Institute for Sports Studies –

Team Denmark –

Olympic Qualification 2024 –