Experience and debuts for referees at Tokyo 2020

22 Apr. 2021

Experience and debuts for referees at Tokyo 2020

After ihf.info revealed the full list of IHF referees nominated for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games yesterday, we take a deeper look at those involved.

Egyptian and Algerian debuts as African future looks strong

Fresh from their whistling of the Egyptian men’s league final between Zamalek and Al Ahly at the weekend, Egyptian sisters Yasmina and Heidy Elsaied are nominated for their first-ever Olympic Games and become the first-ever women’s couple from not only Egypt, but Africa to do so.

Youcef Belkhiri and Sid Ali Hamidi will also make history, for Algeria, as they become the first-ever referees from the North African country to whistle at an Olympic Games. 

#طوكيو #أولمبياد #حكام #كرة_اليد 🔴 الاتحاد الدولي لكرة اليد يعين الحكمين الجزائريين سيد علي. حميدي و يوسف بلخيري ضمن حكام اللعبة بالالعاب الاولمبية القادمة بطوكيو. الف مبروك وكل التوفيق لابناء الجزائر. #Fahb

Posted by ‎Fédération Algérienne de Handball الاتحادية الجزائرية لكرة اليد‎ on Friday, April 23, 2021


In December 2019, like the Elsaied sisters, they whistled at the IHF Women’s World Championship in Kumamoto, Japan. Most recently, the Algerian couple took charge of games at the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 – Women’s Tournament 2 (WOQT2) in Hungary and matches at the 2021 IHF Men’s World Championship in Egypt.

Tokyo 2020 will be the first time that both an African men’s and women’s handball referee couple will go to an Olympic Games together.

First time for European couples

Robert Schulze and Tobias Tönnies from Germany, the Swiss pair of Arthur Brunner and Morad Salah and Swedish couple of Mirza Kurtagic and Mattias Wetterwik are set to make their Olympic bows, having all recently whistled in the Tokyo Handball Qualification 2020 Men’s Tournaments (MOQT) and at Egypt 2021. 

A first for women in the Americas

The Argentinian women’s referee pair of Mariana Garcia and María Ines Paolantoni become the first female couple from the South and Central America Handball Confederation (SCAHC) to participate in an Olympic Games and the third couple from the South American country following Eduardo Brosio/Miguel Zaworotny (Seoul 1988) and Carlos Marina/Dario Minore (London 2012).

Durante el desarrollo del 1er. Congreso Técnico de COSCABAL y con la presencia de Ramón Gallego, presidente de la PRC...

Posted by Handball SC America - Coscabal on Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The nomination also marks the first-time ever a female couple from the entire Americas region has been nominated for an Olympic Games. Both Garcia and Paolantoni whistled at the WOQT2 in Hungary.

“It's a dream come true,” said Paolantoni to the Handball Argentina website about her nomination. 

“We have worked hard and had many challenges, particularly last year where we lost one of our colleagues on the continent, Thiago Da Silva from Brazil,” she added. “Then COVID-19 took people away from us who were very close, but we tried to keep our motivation at full throttle.”

Paolantoni made her IHF World Championship debut back in 2014 but after the retirement of her then partner María Florencia Zanikian, she had to start again, forming a new pairing with Garcia with the couple making their international debut in May 2018 at the 11th edition of the South American Games in Cochabamba, Bolivia. 

“Some time ago this was unthinkable for me, I saw it too far away,” said 29-year-old Garcia. “I can say that I am fulfilling my second dream: the first was to be an IHF referee and now this one that I am making come true.”

Returning after a break

The Croatian couple of Matija Gubica and Boris Milosevic, who won the Franjo Bučar State Award in 2020 for their “exceptional contribution to the development of the reputation of the Republic of Croatia in the world through the field of sports, sports and social activities,” return to the Olympic Games after whistling at London 2012, but missing out on Rio 2016. 

Amongst many other games, the Croatia pair took charge of the bronze-medal match at Egypt 2021 between Spain and France as well as the memorable quarter-final classic between Denmark and Egypt. They also whistled at the MOQT1 in Montenegro last month.

Familiar faces from Rio and before

In total, nine couples nominated for Tokyo 2020 feature referees from the previous Olympic Games, Rio 2016, with four of them in their third consecutive Games.

Angel Sabroso and Oscar Raluy from Spain make it three out of the last three with their Olympic appearances now set to include Japan, following their appearance at both London 2012 and Rio 2016. The couple whistled the Rio 2016 men’s gold-medal match between Denmark and France as well as the Egypt 2021 final, also featuring Denmark, against Sweden in January. The couple were reserve referees for both London 2012 gold-medal matches.

Joining the Spanish pair in their third successive Olympic Games are Vaclav Horacek and Jiri Novotny from the Czech Republic. Both of their previous Games saw them take charge of the men’s bronze-medal matches, Hungary vs Croatia (London 2012) and Germany vs Poland (Rio 2016).

French sisters, the Bonaventuras, continue their Olympic journey after whistling the gold-medal match at London 2012 between Norway and Montenegro and the bronze-medal match at Rio 2016. They also took charge of the Japan 2019 final between Spain and Netherlands and were the first female couple to whistle at an IHF Men’s World Championship, back in 2017. 

Gjorgji Nachevski and Slave Nikolov from North Macedonia are on their third successive Games too, while Bon-Ok Koo and Seok Lee (Republic of Korea), Viktoriia Alpaidze and Tatiana Berezkina (Russia), Bojan Lah and David Sok (Slovenia) and the Portuguese couple of Duarte Santos and Ricardo Fonseca are set to feature at their second successive Games.

Danish referee Mads Hansen will whistle at his third Olympic Games, but first with new partner Jesper Madsen. Hansen had whistled at Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 with previous partner Martin Gjeding.

Håndboldherrerne får selskab af dette makkerpar 👇 ved Tokyo 2020 👏 Mads Hansen og Jesper Madsen skal dømme ved OL til sommer ❗️ 🇩🇰 Ønsk dommerparret tillykke med udtagelsen her 👇🥳

Posted by Dansk håndbold on Wednesday, April 21, 2021

A spread of continents

In total, the Asian Handball Federation (1 couple), African Handball Confederation (2), European Handball Federation (12) and the South and Central America Handball Confederation (1) are represented in the referee nominations.

Working towards gender equality

With four of the 16 referee couples being female, one more than at Rio 2016 and two more than at London 2012, the IHF makes another step on the road to gender equality. 

Next steps

Ahead of Tokyo 2020, all 16 nominated couples will receive bespoke training programmes from the IHF Referee Fitness team, led by co-ordinators Sergi Cedrun and Dani Arino, who will be in constant contact with them as they make final preparations for the Games. ihf.info will bring you the very latest updates as we get closer to Tokyo 2020.