Norwegian women’s handball has made headlines worldwide in recent days for controversy over uniforms in the beach version of the sport. But its national team will be focused on gold as Norway comes into the Tokyo Olympics as the favorite to top the podium.
The Norwegian women’s beach handball team earned fines of 150 euros ($175) per player from the European Handball Federation after wearing shorts rather than bikini bottoms during the bronze medal game at the European Beach Handball Championship.
Norway remains focused on Olympic women’s handball gold
Players made the decision to highlight the difference between men’s and women’s uniforms in beach handball, where men are allowed to wear shorts.
While the Norwegian Handball Federation backed its players, it also noted that at the moment, it is more focused on the Olympics – and with good reason. Norway comes into Tokyo as the +160 favorite to win gold in women’s handball, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
|Olympic Women’s Handball Odds – To Win Gold (via FanDuel Sportsbook)|
|Norway: +160||Russian Olympic Committee: +240|
|France: +360||Netherlands: +1100|
|Hungary: +1800||Spain: +1800|
|Sweden: +1800||Montenegro: +2800|
|South Korea: +3900||Brazil: +5000|
|Japan: +8500||Angola: +10000|
Norway only finished fourth in the 2019 World Women’s Handball Championship. But they rebounded to win the important 2020 European Women’s Handball Championship, beating France 22-20 in the final.
The Russian Olympic Committee (+240) comes in as the second choice, despite finishing just fifth in the 2020 European championships. Russia enters as the defending Olympic champion, having won gold in Rio back in 2016. The Russians also took third at the 2019 Worlds, even beating Norway in the bronze medal match.
France (+360) comes to the Olympics as the third major contender for gold in women’s handball after winning silver in 2016. The French team finished as runners up to Norway in the 2020 European championships, though it struggled at the 2019 Worlds, finishing fourth in its initial round-robin group and failing to reach the later rounds of the tournament.
South Korea best hope for non-European squads
The rest of the field lags far behind those top three contenders, at least in terms of their gold medal odds. The Netherlands (+1100) stands as the fourth choice despite winning the 2019 Worlds. Hungary (+1800), Spain (+1800), Sweden (+1800), and Montenegro (+2800) round out the European contingent.
Much as in men’s handball, European teams expect to dominate the Olympic women’s handball tournament. That wasn’t always the case: South Korea won gold in both 1988 and 1992, two of six medals for the country between 1984 and 2008.
The Korean team has fallen behind its European rivals in recent years, however. FanDuel gives South Korea just +3900 odds of winning gold after the team finished 10th at the 2016 Olympics and 11th in the 2019 Worlds. But the Koreans hope to bounce back in Tokyo this year.
“We arrived here quietly, but we can’t wait to see how different things are going to be when we leave,” South Korean head coach Kang Jae-won told reporters. “We have a few holdovers from the 2012 Olympics here. We want to make up for that fourth-place finish this time.”
Rounding out the field are Brazil (+5000), hosts Japan (+8500), and Angola (+10000). Women’s handball games begin on July 25, and teams will play for the medals on Aug. 8.