Road to Paris 2024: The women’s path to the last pre-Games challenge

28 Mar. 2024

Road to Paris 2024: The women’s path to the last pre-Games challenge

On Saturday August 10, the 2024 Olympic medallists in the women’s handball competition will be known. With mere months to go until the Games begin, the teams can dream of their places on the podium, but the contest to get there began long ago — stretching back through several years of events relevant to qualification for Paris 2024. 

The Olympic Games are on the horizon through almost all major championships played, with places up for grabs at the World Championships and continental tournaments, making every match and every goal scored part of the Paris 2024 journey. Here, we look at how each side that has already booked a berth at the 2024 Olympics did so and who has reached the Olympic Qualification Tournaments and how. 

As hosts of the Games, France were the first assured of their place, although, as the awarding of the Paris 2024 Olympics occurred in 2017, the team was comprised of an almost entirely different list of players compared to the one that will take the home court when the competition begins this July. The France women’s team at that time were the vice-champions of the Olympics and bronze medallists in Europe, and some months after the awarding, the side would take their second world title.  

The Olympic champions in 2017 were Russia, whom France would defeat in a rematch final at the Tokyo 2020 Games to thereby enter the home Olympics as defending title holders. 

While the next men’s participants in the Games were confirmed in January 2023, France knew one of their opponents in the women’s competition earlier — Norway, who secured the place available at the EHF EURO 2022 when they won the trophy. That place would later be reallocated to the other finalists of the EHF EURO 2022, Denmark, when Norway claimed the 2023 world title and therefore moved into that qualification position. But plenty occurred on the road to Paris 2024 in between those two events. 

2023 brings Paris 2024 into focus

In 2023, two continental qualification events specifically for the Games were held, along with the Pan American Games, before the year concluded with the World Championship in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. 

In August, Republic of Korea celebrated their 11th straight Games as they won the Asian qualification tournament. Korea have played every Olympics since their debut in 1984 and were a significant shaper of the women’s handball competition early on, and indeed of the speed so inherent in the game now. They played the semi-finals eight consecutive times and made it to the final on five of those occasions, including on their maiden appearance, winning gold twice. Their medal record has them shy of only one team, Norway, who have seven pieces of Olympic silverware to Korea’s six. 

But no team rivals Korea’s participation record. Norway will play their ninth Olympic Games at Paris 2024, while it will be the France women’s team’s seventh. For Denmark, it will be the fifth, as the nation with the record for most titles in the women’s competition returns after a 12-year wait. The team played their first Games in 1996, starting a run of three consecutive gold medals, then had one more participation, in 2012, ranking ninth. 

After the Asian qualification tournament in August 2023, next up was the African qualification tournament in Luanda in October. There, Angola finished first and booked their eighth straight Games participation. Their best Olympic position so far was seventh in Atlanta in 1996. 

10 days after Angola celebrated their Olympic place, the Pan American Games began in Chile. Brazil emerged on top, taking their seventh straight title in the event and booking their place at Paris 2024, which will be their seventh Olympic Games. 

2023 ended with Norway on top of the World Championship podium, seeing the reallocation of the EURO spot to Denmark and rounding out the list of directly qualified teams. With that, the 12 teams left in the running for Paris 2024 looked ahead to the Olympic Qualification Tournaments (OQTs).

On to the OQTs

As the final ranking of the World Championship also has an impact on the positions in the OQTs, the line-ups were only confirmed following the tournament in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. 

Six teams secured places in the OQTs with their rankings in their respective continental events. From Africa and Asia, it was the sides who placed second at their continental qualification tournaments, Cameroon and Japan. From the Pan American Games, runners-up Argentina and bronze medallists Paraguay booked OQT places. From the EURO, Slovenia and Spain secured OQT berths thanks to their eighth and ninth positions, respectively. 

From the World Championship, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany, Montenegro, Czechia and Hungary all booked OQT tickets. These teams ranked from fourth through to 10th at the World Championship in the order listed, with Czechia in eighth and Hungary in 10th either side of ninth-placed Brazil, already qualified for the Games. 

With the men’s OQTs having been held in March, the line-up for the men’s competition at Paris 2024 is complete. Soon the very last pieces of the puzzle will slot into place, as the final six tickets to the Games are decided, with the teams ranked first and second at each round-robin OQT booking an Olympic place. 

Sweden, Hungary, Cameroon and Japan will vie for the places at Tournament 1 in Debrecen. Tournament 2 in Torrevieja will feature Netherlands, Czechia, Argentina and Spain. In Neu-Ulm, Germany, Montenegro, Slovenia and Paraguay will contest Tournament 3. 

Sweden, Hungary, Japan, Argentina, Spain, Germany and Slovenia all have the chance to make it two from two in the Paris 2024 handball competitions, with their men’s sides having qualified through various means already. Alongside hosts France, Denmark and Norway are the only two countries represented in the men’s and women’s competitions so far. 

The Olympic handball competition will run from 25 July to 11 August, starting one day before the official beginning of the broader Paris 2024 Games. Tickets for the handball competitions can be purchased here.