Tokyo (AFP)

A third title for three hand legends?

Nikola Karabatic, Luc Abalo and Michaël Guigou, the last of the Experts, can enter the Pantheon of French sport against Denmark in the final of the Tokyo Games on Saturday (9 p.m. local, 2 p.m. French).

Olympic champions in 2008 then 2012, they can join the small circle of French athletes with three gold medals at the Summer Games.

That of Marie-José Perec, Tony Estanguet, Daniel Morelon or Félicia Ballanger, and more recently Teddy Riner.

"We must not let ourselves be overwhelmed by emotion, by the stake", judged Nikola Karabatic, the qualification barely acquired for the final where await them as in 2016 the Danes who had deprived them of an unprecedented golden hat-trick in Rio (28-26).

"We just have to give what we have left to have nothing to regret, to give our all. And may the best win", professes the leader of the Blues, 37 years old and full of the composure of the one preparing to live his fourth Olympic final in a row.

Nikola Karabatic qualified for the final after the victory of the Blues against Egypt in Tokyo, August 5, 2021 Fabrice COFFRINI AFP

To find traces of a final without Karabatic, we must go back to Athens in 2004: Jean-Pierre Raffarin was Prime Minister, Emmanuel Macron out of Ena for only a few weeks.

Seeing French handball players on the floor on a final day of the Games has almost become one of the few certainties in life.

- "Not at all trivial" -

"They trivialized it, while it's not trivial at all, insists Luka Karabatic. We're so used to seeing them do that."

It is to say the accomplishment of the generation of his brother.

Nikola, Luc Abalo and Michaël Guigou make the link with the news: that of Nedim Remili, Dika Mem and Ludovic Fabregas to whom they will soon completely leave the wheel.

Luc Abalo with the Blues against Egypt in the semi-final of the Olympic handball tournament in Tokyo, August 5, 2021 Fabrice COFFRINI AFP

First there is one last turn.

"What awaits us is perhaps still the most difficult," warns Guillaume Gille.

Double world champions (2021 and 2019), the Danes have reigned over handball since the Rio Games and only the Spaniards have managed to slip into the charts since (during the Euro 2018 and 2020).

There is something that smiles in the Kingdom of Denmark: Mikkel Hansen.

The PSG star, with his allure at the crossroads of Bjorn Borg and a Viking, is unstoppable in Tokyo.

Top scorer of the tournament with 52 goals, "the Hammer" ("the hammer", his nickname) is only two lengths from his record in Rio even before the final.

Thursday, he hammered the Spaniards by 12 goals (75%).

The same total as that inflicted on France at the World-2019, where the Danes had then crushed the Blues in the semi-finals (38-30).

The captain of the Blues Michaël Guigou against Portugal in Pérols, in the South of France, March 14, 2021 Sylvain THOMAS AFP / Archives

"Our final climb is anything but anecdotal," admits Guillaume Gille, aware of the mountain facing the Blues.

"She will ask to dig deep to plant the French flag at the top."

© 2021 AFP

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