With its six medals, the Belgian delegation leaves the Berlin European Athletics Championship with an unprecedented result. “We were betting on two or three medals at the Euro; I would have signed blindfolded for such a result,’’ rejoices Stéphanie Noël, for her last mission as high-level sports coordinator for the Francophone Athletics League (LBFA).
“We can only use superlatives for this Euro. The Belgian team was at its high peek at the best time,” she notes. “Bashir Abdi showed the way, with his silver medal in the 10,000 m. In spite of the fact that until now he had never been able to shine in championships, we considered him as a good chance for a medal. After the gold at Rio (OG 2016) and in London (World Championship 2017), Nafi Thjam was, of course, the heptathlon favorite. She showed that she is a great champion, even when pushed to her limits.’’
“Kevin and Jonathan Borlée (respectively, silver and bronze in 400 m) had known several difficult years on the individual circuit, and their preparation had also been disturbed,’’ continues Stéphanie Noël. “But as soon as the series began, we saw that they were motivated. We didn’t have very high expectations, but we felt that they were capable of doing something. As for the Belgian Tornados, they were favorites for the gold, and they were up to their reputation.’’
Koen Naert’s gold in the marathon is a surprise,’’ she admits. “But we were still convinced that he could bring back a medal. We knew he was capable one day of running it under 2 hours 10, which is what he did here, beating a fantastic championships’ record. Besides, we cannot forget our selection’s young athletes, who have almost all confirmed their season.’’
Stéphanie Noël has been the high-level sports coordinator at the LBFA since 2014, but on 27 August she will go for a new adventure at the ADEPS. “It is a beautiful way to end four years at this post,’’ she confides. Frédéric Kimmlinge will replace her at the Francophone League.