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Mikkel Hansen: The Biggest Name in the Biggest Sport You’re Not Watching

The team handball legend seeks to lead Denmark to a second straight gold medal. But he’s making serious moves off the court, too.

For years, Americans have looked to Europe for an early look at certain emerging trends. Whether it’s lifestyle or fashion or automobiles, our friends across the pond know how to set an aspirational example or two. And every four years during the Olympics, US audiences are captivated by a sport that they can’t find anywhere during the in-between times: team handball.

It’s easy enough to follow. Two seven-a-side squads pass and hustle a ball around in hopes of whipping it into the back of the opponent’s net. The sport pairs the intensity of hockey with the grace of soccer, plus a bit of lacrosse mixed in for good measure. And it’s the largest international sport without a permanent, professional US presence to speak of.

Team USA hasn’t qualified for an international handball tournament since the 2001 World Championships. However, the sport is a massive deal in Europe, and even gained a double-digit boost in sponsorship value during the pandemic.

Of 39 Olympic medals in handball that have been distributed through history, all but one of those have gone to a European nation. And these days, the Danish national team is a dominant force to be reckoned with.

Although Denmark notched its first loss of the tournament in a nail-biting 33-30 defeat during their final game of match play against Sweden, they are still a popular pick to take home gold in Japan as the knockout rounds begin this week.

And they are led by the prince of the sport: Mikkel Hansen.

The 33-year-old left back led Denmark to gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he secured a tournament MVP award from the International Handball Federation, two World Championships (2019, 2021), and a European Championship (2012).

The Tokyo Games have already been record-breaking for Hansen, who became the top Olympic goal scorer with a nine-goal performance against Portugal, giving him 138 for his career.

And counting.

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His dominance on the international stage comes as no surprise, as he’s a three-time IHF World Player of the Year. Earlier this year, he made waves in a different kind of way, however — he announced his departure from Paris Saint-Germain to return to Denmark’s Aalborg Håndbold for 2022.

And in addition to tallying record-breaking stats on the court, Hansen has begun to build his legacy off the court as well.

  • Estimated net worth: $44 million
  • IG followers: 238,000
  • Key endorsements: Mizuno, VitaminWell, RareWine

As he embarks on a homecoming tour to his native Denmark during the next club season, Hansen continues to develop his empire. In addition to key sponsorships and his work with his anti-bullying organization MH24, he also opened a training facility in Copenhagen in 2019 that seeks to develop the next generation of ballers.

In the meantime, Denmark is gearing up to take on Norway Tuesday in the Olympic quarterfinals. Team USA will be sure to look on intently, as they have eyes on fielding their first-ever Olympic handball team in the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

And to do so, they’ll undoubtedly be logging countless hours deconstructing the talent of the game’s GOAT.