Belgium will be represented at the Olympic Games in Tokyo by 122 athletes, the Belgian Olympic Committee, COIB, announced on Saturday.
The 67 male and 55 female athletes will be in Tokyo from 23 July to 8 August for the 32nd edition of the Olympic Summer Games.
The COIB’s announcement puts an end to uncertainty over the composition of some of the teams.
The basketball squad, fresh from its 3rd place at the recent European championship, has retained 40-year-old national basketball legend Ann Wauters, who will retire at the end of the Olympics. “With her experience and height, she will help us under the basket but also off the field,” Belgian Cats Coach Philip Mestagh explained. “You need very strong personalities to maintain the team’s mental strength for 32 days.”
There are no surprises in the composition of the male and female 4 x 400 metre relay teams.
The Tornados’ line-up includes the three Borlée brothers – Kevin, Dylan and Jonathan – Jonathan Sacoor and new Belgian champion Alexander Doom. This will be the fourth Olympics for 33-year-old twins Jonathan and Kevin.
The ‘Cheetahs’ will be relying on the experienced Cynthia Bolingo, Camille Laus, Imke Vervaet and Paulien Couckuyt, while welcoming newcomer Naomi Van Den Broeck, a brilliant student who has been living in Norway for the past 11 years.
In 3 x 3 basketball, after rumours that new players could be called up, the team announced on Saturday is made up of the four heroes who clinched one of the eight slots in this new discipline at the 32nd Olympiad: Nick Celis, Rafael Bogaerts, Thibaut Vervoort, Thierry Marien. The team created a major surprise when it won the last qualifying tournament in Debrecen, Hungary.
In cycling, Greg Van Avermaet has been appointed captain for the road race. The Rio Olympics champion will be accompanied by Remco Evenepoel and Belgian champion Wout van Aert, both of whom will also compete in the time trials. Tiesj Benoot and Mauri Vansevenant make up the rest of the five-rider team.
On the track, there is a slight surprise with the selection of Kenny De Ketele, who will now be competing in his third Olympics, after Beijing and London, in the Omnium. He will also do the Madison with Robbe Gys. “Neither of us was a candidate for the Omnium, but one of us was obliged by the rules to compete in it,” the 36-year-old said.
In gymnastics, a long selection process whittled down the preliminary list of 10 gymnasts to four. The three happy candidates selected alongside the double world champion at the uneven bars, Nina Derwael, are Maellyse Brassart and newcomers Lisa Vaelen and Jutta Verkest.
For the first time since 1928, a Belgian dressage team will take part in the Games. Domien Michiels (Intermezzo Van Het Meerdaalhof) and Larissa Pauluis (Flambeau) will accompany Laurence Roos (Fil Rouge) who will also take part in the individual event. Belgium inherited a slot left open by Ireland, and which Luxembourg was unable to take up, having failed to form a team.
In sailing, Wannes Van Laer will compete in his third Olympics, in the Laser event. He, too, benefits from a place left vacant by another country.
In the field of athletics, nine persons have been selected for individual events. They are Michael Obasuyi (110 metre hurdles), Robin Vanderbemben (200m), Jonathan Sacoor (400m), Kevin Borlée (400m) and Robin Hendrix (5,000m) for the men, and, for the women, Imke Vervaet (200m), Anne Zagré (100m hurdles), Fanny Smets (pole vault) and Noor Vidts (heptathlon).
Four judokas will practise their sport in the country where it was invented. They are world champion Matthias Casse (-81 kg), European champion Toma Nikiforov (-100 kg) and Jorre Verstraeten (-60 kg) for the men, and Charline Van Snick (-52 kg), bronze medallist in London in 2012, for the women.
The COIB had good news for young archer Jarno De Smedt, who benefited from a relocation slot at the last minute At 21, he will have the privilege of being the first Belgian in action in Japan from the 23rd of June in the qualifying round for his event.