Seven Olympic medals: pie in the sky or feet on the ground?

Team Danmark predicts success in seven different sports: swimming, rowing, badminton, tennis, handball, sailing and cycling

Team Danmark announced in late January that it is expecting to win seven medals at this year’s Olympics in London – the same total it won in 2008. However, while those games – at which it won two golds, two silvers and three bronzes, finishing 30th in the final medal table (28th equal in terms of total medals won) – were in Beijing, the 2012 Olympics are practically on their doorstep in a country that’s windy, rainy and rarely warm.

 

Sound familiar? Well, history suggests it is. Denmark’s most successful ever Olympics were in 1948, the last time London hosted the games. On that occasion the Danes won 20 medals, including five golds.

So given that climatically this is the closest Denmark has come to ‘hosting’ an Olympics since Moscow in 1980 (failing that, Munich in 1972 or Helsinki in 1952), why are the projections calculated by the national Olympic committee DIF and Team Danmark so low and what are they based on?

 

According to Michael Andersen of Team Danmark, the projections are based on performances at the Olympic sports’ world championships in 2010 and 2011. “At present, we believe that Denmark has the potential to win medals in 20 to 22 Olympic disciplines,” he contended in a press release. “And experience shows that we need just under three medal chances to actually get one.”

 

Jesper Frigast Larsen, the DIF’s elite chief, added that he was confident the projection would grow given how large the team is likely to be. “It looks like being our largest Olympic team since the games in Atlanta in 1996,” he said. “We have already secured participation in 13 sports – a figure that might possibly reach 19.” He said he was optimistic of the Danish side springing a few surprises.

 

And so are we. Taking a sport-by-sport approach, we look at the competitors who are heading to London with gold, silver or bronze in their sights.

 

Swimming

Team Danmark predicts one medal

Copenhagen Post: two  medals

Lotte Friis (pictured), who has just turned 24, should be at the peak of her powers in London, and while the 400m freestyle might be out of her reach, she will start the 800m as one of the favourites for the gold. Currently the second fastest swimmer in history behind defending champion Rebecca Adlington, she’s a cert to medal. Jeanette Ottesen, also 24, will feel confident following her triple gold medal haul at the European Short Course Championship in December, and between her and fellow short course gold medallist Rikke Moller Pedersen, we’re confident the swimmers will win at least two medals.

 

Badminton
Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: two medals

Denmark might not be the best badminton nation in the world, but the country that has dominated Europe for two decades isn’t far off. Across the board, they have medal chances in all five of the categories. The best of these is probably the men’s double pairing, Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen. The world number threes really impressed last year, showing the ability to peak when it really matters, like at All-England – a title they significantly won on British soil, albeit in Birmingham not London. While singles players Peter Gade and two-time All-England champ Tine Baun, the world number four and five respectively, are class acts and also likely to medal, Denmark’s second best hope must be Christinna Pedersen, who along with mixed partner Joachim Fischer Nielsen (pictured) is the world number three, and with ladies partner Kamilla Rytter Juhl, the world number seven. In short, the world number threes, threes, four, five and sevens will win at least two medals – that’s a promise.

 

Rowing
Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: two medals

While the whole world will be waiting with baited breath to see if rowing great Eskild Ebbesen, 39, can guide his lightweight coxless four (Jacob Barsøe, Morten Jørgensen and Kasper Winter) (pictured) to gold and win his fourth Olympic title, he is not Denmark’s best medalling prospect. That honour falls to Henrik Stephansen, an insanely talented lightweight single sculler, whose third quarter turn of pace is just too hot for his rivals to handle. He’s a cert to win gold. And don’t forget Mads Rasmussen and Rasmus Quist who will go close in the lightweight double sculls after winning bronze in 2008.

 

Sailing
Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: two medals

We’re going to stick our neck out and predict two medals in London. In similar conditions to the ones they’re used to, Danish sailors should have an advantage over most of their rivals. Defending Olympic champs Martin Kirketerp and Jonas Warrer (pictured) will lead the charge in the 49er class.

 

Handball
Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: no medals

With the women facing a tricky qualification tournament in May, putting your money on a Danish handball medal at present looks a shaky bet. The men might be European champions, but how much do they rely on Mikkel Hansen, and will he be able to produce the goods against teams that know if they can stop him, they stop Denmark. With both teams playing in London, you’d expect a medal, but as things currently stand, no.

 

Cycling
Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: one medal

Denmark shouldn’t get carried away with their medal prospects in the velodrome. Australia didn’t take too kindly to being thrashed by the Brits in 2008 and have been sweeping the board in recent world championships, the next of which it will be hosting in April. With the Brits hosting and Aussies rampant, there won’t be much spare change this time around for Danish hopefuls like Rasmus Quaade (pictured). Saying that, they probably will medal in the 4 km team pursuit.

 

Tennis

Team Danmark: one medal
Copenhagen Post: no medals

Given that Caroline Wozniacki has always struggled at Wimbledon, it would appear to be plain barmy predicting a medal for her at the Olympics on grass, her least favourite surface. Sure, she was junior champion there in 2006, but since then, the best she’s managed is the last 16. Perhaps Team Danmark has based its prediction based on her world ranking. Well she’s number four and she’ll finish fourth at best.

 

Other sports
Team Danmark: no medals
Copenhagen Post: one medal

It stands to reason, Denmark will spring a surprise or two, here or there. We have a sneaky suspicion this might be in the shooting, dressage, triathlon or canoeing. Not holding our breath for the table tennis, athletics, archery or gymnastics though.

 

Factfile | Danish Olympic performance since 1996

Olympics

Team size

Medal haul

1996

126 athletes

6 medals

2000

97 athletes

6 medals

2004

92 athletes

8 medals

2008

84 athletes

7 medals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Tally

Team Danmark: 7 medals

The Copenhagen Post: 10 medals





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