With 26 slots in the top 8, including seven medals, the 123 athletes who represented Belgium at the Tokyo Olympics did their country proud in the eyes of Belgian Olympic Committee (BOIC) Chair Pierre-Olivier Beckers.
The BOIC head was visibly moved as he spoke on Sunday at the last press conference at the Olympics in Tokyo, held from 23 July to 8 August. His evaluation of his team’s performance was said with just two words: "Mission accomplished."
The Belgians’ medal haul - three gold, one silver and three bronze - and their 26 places in the Top 8 "have been extraordinary," Beckers added. "These performances come at an important time because our country greatly needed this," he added, in a reference to the mid-July floods.
“Lifting our fellow citizens’ spirits, making them proud again will help give them the will to rise up in these difficult times,” Beckers stressed. “That’s the fundamental role of the Olympics: making the world a bit better through sport.”
"In 34 days, I hand over the reins with great serenity,” said Beckers, who retires in August after 17 years at the helm of the Belgian Olympic movement before taking up his post as a coordinator between the International Olympic Committee and the organisers of the next Olympic Games, to be held in Paris from 26 July to 11 August 2024.
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“There’s a time for everyone and a time for everything,” he added. “High-level sport and the BOIC will be able to benefit from new ideas and energy, and these will strengthen the good health of sport today. High-level sport and the BOIC are in good health and in better health than they were in 2004.”
Of the 123 Belgian athletes who took part in the Olympics, 69 (56.1%) reached the final-eight stage, earning themselves Olympic diplomas. With a total of seven medals, the team equalled the country’s performance at the London Olympics in 1948. Additionally, Belgium had not won three gold medals at the same Olympics since the 1924 Paris Games.
Nafissatou Thiam won gold in the Heptathlon, and Nina Derwael on the women’s uneven bar in gymnastics, while first place also went to Belgium in men’s hockey.
In cycling, Wout van Aert won silver in the men’s road race, and the three bronze medallists were Bashir Abdi in the marathon, the Belgian equestrian team in the jumping event, and Matthias Casse in men’s judo (-81 kg).
In addition to its medal haul, Belgium placed 4th on seven occasions in Tokyo, 5th in four events, and 6th in three. Belgian athletes also won three 7th places and ended twice in 8th place.
In 2016, Belgium’s 104-strong team of athletes came back from the Rio Olympics with 19 places in the Top 8, including six medals – two gold, two silver and two bronze. 40 (38.5%) of the athletes attained the BOIC's target of landing in the final 8.
The full list of Belgians reaching the Top Eight at the Tokyo Olympics, including the seven medallists:
4 x 400 metre relay (women) – 7th: Naomi Van den Broeck, Imke Vervaet, Paulien Couckuyt, Camille Laus (3:23.69)
4 x 400 metre relay (men) - 4th: Alexander Doom, Jonathan Sacoor, Dylan Borlée, Kevin Borlée (2:57.88)
4 x 400 metre relay (mixed) - 5th: Dylan Borlée, Kevin Borlée, Camille Laus, Imke Vervaet (3:11.51)
Heptathlon (women) - 1st: Nafissatou Thiam
Heptathlon (women) - 4th: Noor Vidts
Marathon (men) - 3rd: Bashir Abdi
Men’s Light Double Sculls - 5th: Tim Brys and Niels Van Zandweghe
Women - 7th: Belgian Cats (Julie Allemand, Marjorie Carpréaux, Antonia Delaere, Kyara Linskens, Billie Massey, Emma Meesseman, Hanne Mestdagh, Kim Mestdagh, Heleen Nauwelaers, Jana Raman, Julie Vanloo, Ann Wauters)
3 x 3 Men - 4th: Belgian Lions (Rafael Bogaerts, Nick Celis, Thierry Marien, Thibaut Vervoort)
Men’s road race – 2nd: Wout Van Aert
Men’s individual time trial - 6th: Wout Van Aert
Women’s road race - 4th : Lotte Kopecky
Men’s Madison – 4th: Kenny De Ketele, Robbe Ghys
Team Jumping – 3rd: Belgium [Pieter Devos (Claire Z), Jerôme Guéry (Quel Homme de Hus), Grégory Wathelet (Nevados S)]
Women’s team event - 8th: Belgium (Maellyse Brassart, Nina Derwael, Lisa Vaelen, Jutta Verkest)
Women’s all-round event - 6th: Nina Derwael
Uneven bars - 1st: Nina Derwael
-52kg women - 7th: Charline Van Snick
-81kg men - 3rd: Matthias Casse
-49 kg women - 5th: Nina Sterckx
Men - 1st: Belgium (Gauthier Boccard, Tom Boon, Cédric Charlier, Nicolas De Kerpel, Félix Denayer (capt.), Arthur De Sloover, Sébastien Dockier, John-John Dohmen, Simon Gougnard, Alexander Hendrickx, Antoine Kina, Loick Luypaert, Vincent Vanasch, Florent Van Aubel, Arthur Van Doren, Victor Wegnez - reserves: Thomas Briels, Augustin Meurmans)
Women’s K1 sprint 500 metres - 6th: Hermien Peters
200 metres, women’s breaststroke - 8th: Fanny Lecluyse
Men - 4th: Marten van Riel
Mixed relay - 5th: Belgium (Claire Michel, Marten Van Riel, Valerie Barthelemy, Jelle Geens)
Laser Radial - 4th: Emma Plasschaert
The Brussels Times