Women’s World Championships: Implications for Olympic Qualification

The dominoes are starting to fall in place for Olympic qualification.

Watch the Women’s World Championships Finals live this Sunday (now only $15):
Bronze Medal Match:  Denmark vs. Spain, 2:30 PM
Gold Medal Match: France vs. Norway, 5:15 PM
(Sao Paulo is GMT -2 or 3 hours ahead of the U.S. East Coast)

Tomorrow’s Gold Medal Final between France and Norway will determine more than the World Champion as it will also determine who will receive a direct ticket to the Olympic Handball Tournament next summer in London.  By no means have all the dominoes fallen into place, but at least a few items are now clearer.

Direct Qualification: The winner of tomorrow’s match will earn a direct ticket to the Olympics as the reigning World Champion.  Norway, however, has already earned a direct ticket by virtue of having won last year’s European Championship.  Since the World Championship direct ticket, takes precedence, a Norway victory will result in the European direct ticket being transferred to last year’s European runner up Sweden.

IHF Olympic Qualification Tourneys: From 25-27 May, 2012, three Olympic Qualification tournaments will be held to determine 6 at large bids for the Olympics.  Each tournament is a round robin competition amongst 4 teams with the top 2 teams from each tournament punching a ticket to the Olympics.  Teams are awarded spots in these tournaments based on their ranking at the World
Championships and at Continental Championships.  The final placement of nations in these tournaments is decided based on a fairly complicated hierarchy by which direct tickets take precedence over qualification tournaments and World Championship ranking takes precedence over Continental Ranking.  Because these rankings involve many of the same team a whole lot of dominoes still have to fall in place.

World Championship Slots (6 nations): Places 2nd through 7th are awarded slots in the qualification tournaments.  Because Norway and Brazil have already directly qualified their placement does not count.  Additionally, either France or Sweden will also receive a direct ticket.  This means the following nations will definitely be participating in a Qualification Tournament:  Spain, Denmark, Russia and Croatia.  Also participating will be either France or Sweden (whichever nation doesn’t get the direct ticket).  Finally, Angola is currently slated to participate, but they will also be the odds on favorite to win the African Championship in January.  If they win, Montenegro will become the 6th team.
Continental Qualifying Slots (6 nations): Each of the 4 Continental Federations (Europe, Pan America, Africa, Asia) get 1 slot for these tournaments and the top 2 ranked continents at the World Championship get an extra slot.  The ranking is simply the order of the highest placing team from each continent, so Europe and Pan America get the extra slots.  For Asia and Pan America these nations (Japan, Argentina, and Dominican Republic) are known and will not change.  Africa’s participant will be known in January.  For Europe it’s a little more complicated due to the number of nations that will receive the precedent taking World Championship slots.  The final ranking from the European Championships was:

1) Norway
2) Sweden
3) Romania
4) Denmark
5) France
6) Montenegro
7-8 ) Russia, Netherlands

Because Sweden is assured of either a direct ticket or an IHF World Championship Qualification Tournament slot, Romania will receive the European 2nd place slot.  Because Denmark and France will also get higher order slots from the World Championship, Montenegro is currently in line for the European 3rd slot.  But should Angola win the African Championship, Montenegro will receive an IHF slot, thereby moving the Netherlands into the European 3rd place slot.

Beware 2nd and 7th place: As I’ve pointed out before this qualification process has the odd ramification that it’s better to place 4th or 5th at the World Championships then it is place 2nd, 3rd, 5th or 6th.  This is because that tournament is likely to have 2 weak teams while the other tournaments are far more likely to feature a European side which will be more of a threat.  And sure enough the weak tournament will include the Dominican Republic and Africa #2 (probably either Tunisia or the Cote d’Ivoire).  Pencil in (or write in ink, if you like) the two European sides in that tournament.  The other tournaments will be far more challenging.  The 2nd and 7th place teams will take on Romania and probably the best non-European team remaining, Japan, which just battled Denmark into overtime in the round of 16.  The 3rd and 6th place teams will face Argentina and probably the Netherlands.  So conspiracy theorists, be on the lookout for the results in tomorrow’s placement games.  In some cases there’s real incentive for losing.

Following tomorrow’s matches we’ll update our Olympic Qualification Page: