The Danish Men's Handball team look to go back to back in Tokyo

The Danish Men's Handball team look to go back to back in Tokyo Picture: Olympics.com

Ahead of Tokyo 2020, The Inner Sanctum looks at the countries poised to take home a gold medal in an team event.

Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, there’s always speculation as to who will take home a gold medal. The team events are some of the most heavily analysed events before the games starting with the squads often broken down player by player to find a path to gold.

After previously assessing the gold medal favourites in individual events, The Inner Sanctum now turns to the team events and the countries that are posed to win Olympic Gold in one of the most competitive Games in the modern era.

Great Britain – Men’s Team Pursuit (Track Cycling)

Gold – 1908, 2008, 2012, 2016, Silver – 1920, 2004, Bronze – 1928, 1932, 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1972, 1976, 2000

The Men’s Team Pursuit has won gold at each of the last three Olympics. The team of success has only Ed Clancy returning, but he has been a key rider at each of those Olympics. 

Alongside him will be Ethan Hayter, Ethan Vernon, Matt Walls and Ollie Wood as the team that will attempt to continue the legacy of the last three gold medals.

In each of those gold medal-winning efforts, they have broken the World Record, including a blistering 3:50.265 for the 4000m race at Rio 2016. 

Australia and Italy are likely to be the big challengers to Great Britain, with the Australians finishing 0.743 seconds behind for silver in 2016. With the strength of the British cycling program, it’s unlikely that anybody can catch them. 


Daniel Coppel

Denmark – Men’s Handball Team

Gold – 2016

While the French Men’s Handball team have a superior Olympic record to the Danish, Denmark has gone from strength to strength since winning its first Olympic Gold Medal in the sport in Rio.

Since then the only bumps in the road the Danish has seen were at the European Championships in 2020, where they failed to advance past the preliminary round and the 10th place finish at the 2017 World Championships.

They’re certainly more comfortable on the world stage than the highly competitive European Championships, winning the 2019 and 2021 World Championships. The former being the event they qualified for Tokyo at.

It’s an experienced squad heading to Tokyo, seven of the twelve member squad played in the gold medal-winning side in 2016 and big-name players such as Niklas Landin Jacobsen and Mikkel Hansen will bring a wealth of national-level experience to the side with the pair having played over 200-games at national level each.

France and Sweden are both strong medal contenders, but off the back of the World Championship earlier this year, Denmark is in the hunt to build a dynasty, not unlike France’s from 2008-2015.

Jacqui Dodd

USA – Men’s National Basketball Team

Gold – 1936, 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1976, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012, 2016 Silver – 1972 Bronze – 1988, 2004

The US’ recent losses to Nigeria and Australia in Exhibition matches shows that the path to Gold might not be as one-sided as years past, but it is still the overwhelming favourite once again.

The team is always spoiled with NBA superstars, with some returning Olympians, but is a roster mostly made up of debutants.

Chemistry needs to be developed and the US’ disappointing seventh-place finish at the 2019 FIBA World Cup looms over the team, though that squad was one of the country’s weakest in recent memory.

But the USA’s overwhelming weight of numbers and star power should be too much to overcome.

Hamish Spence

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Australia The Kookaburras – Hockey

Gold – 2004 Silver – 1968, 1976, 1992 Bronze – 1964, 1996, 2000, 2008, 2012

One of Australia’s most decorated sports teams in recent decades, the Kookaburras will again be going for a medal finish at Tokyo 2020. 

According to the International Hockey Federation, they are currently ranked number one in the world and are perfectly poised to win a second gold medal since Athens 2004. 

It was a disappointing finish for the Kookaburras in Rio 2016, losing to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals for sixth place. 

They’ll head to Tokyo to return to their place on the podium. 

Leading up to the Olympics, the Kookaburras have had two strong wins over New Zealand who are currently ranked eighth in the world. The rivals will play in the group stage in Tokyo. 

It has been an otherwise very interrupted 18 months of international hockey. A comfortable run through the preliminary matches will be important to Australia gaining momentum for the knockout stages and going for Gold. 

Sarah Wildy

New Zealand Black Ferns – Women’s Rugby Sevens

Silver – 2016

A relatively new sport to the Olympic Games landscape, rugby sevens made its debut at Rio in 2016 where the women’s side of the draw was won by Australia with a 24-17 win over trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

New Zealand, a nation always strong in all forms of rugby, its form has translated into the shorter format of the game with the women’s side hard to beat in recent years, setting up a chance at redemption in Tokyo.

While New Zealand eventually did get their revenge over Australia at a major event, prevailing 17-12 in extra-time at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which also marked the sport’s debut at the event, it helped set up the next few years for the Black Fern Sevens who have continued to get better and stronger.

During the latest iteration of the Rugby World Cup Sevens in 2018, it saw New Zealand achieve back-to-back titles after going down to Australia in 2009 to become the most successful nation in the history of the tournament.

Black Fern Sevens has topped the World Rugby Sevens Women’s tournament in seven of eight seasons since 2013 and fell short of first place by two points in 2018, also highlighting their world dominance.

Black Fern Sevens topped the list for points scored (783), tries scored (125), conversions (79) and was equal-first in tackles (441) among the 2020 World Rugby Sevens Women’s tournament, setting them in good stead to perform to this level at the upcoming Olympic Games.

New Zealand, lead by captain Sara Hiriki, will be looking for centre Stacey Fluhler to provide the run and point-scoring ability she’s known for while Tyla Nathan-Wong, the side’s usual conversion-kicker will want to keep up her form as the top conversion-scorer for the past four years.


Jason Irvine

China – Women’s Volleyball Team

Gold – 1984, 2004, 2016 Silver – 1996 Bronze – 1988, 2008

China’s women’s volleyball team, or Zhōngguó nǚpái, may be ranked second in the world behind the USA, but it certainly won’t be settling for silver.

The team comes into Tokyo with a host of recent accolades to its name, winning the 2015 and 2019 FIVB Volleyball World Cups, on top of earning gold in Rio. They’re also the three-time reigning Asian Cup champions and won gold at the Asian Games in 2018.

Superstar outside hitter and captain Zhu Ting heads to her second Games riding high off being named MVP of the Chinese Volleyball League for the second time. She was also awarded both the MVP and Best Outside Spiker awards at Rio 2016, as she put up the third-highest score in an Olympic match against the Netherlands.

The Chinese team proved at Rio that they are prepared to take the hard path to the podium if need be, winning just two of their five games in their pool to barely qualify for the quarterfinals. When there, they defeated reigning gold medallists Brazil in a five-set epic, going on to defeat both the Netherlands and Serbia to win gold.

A disappointing fifth-place finish at this year’s Volleyball Nation’s League is the only knock on this team. Regardless, China has won 71 medals overall in women’s volleyball, including three Olympic golds. They’ll be looking to make it four, and go back to back.

Alex Catalano

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