Olek Kazimirowski, Director of Belgium's Paralympic Committee, has hopes of the Belgian team securing ten medals at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo (24 August - 5 September).
This figure would be one less than Belgium won in Rio de Janeiro five years ago but Kazimirowski insists that these were "exceptional Games," adding that "If we finish close to our objective we will be very satisfied."
"We are aiming for ten medals, this is realistic. It is slightly fewer than what we achieved at Rio but more than we expected to win there." The head of the Belgian team tempered expectations explaining that "Sport makes us dream but being the best on paper doesn't entail that you will get a medal."
All Belgium's four Olympic champions of five years ago will also participate in this year's Games and are all hoping to bring home medals. They are: table tennis players Laurens Devos et Florian Van Acker, wheelchair springer Peter Genyn, and equestrian Michèle George. "It was obvious that we would select them," Kazimirowski said. "They have experience and delivered at the highest level in the last Paralympics and the World and European Championships. Alongside a few other athletes, they are our best hopes for medal-winners."
But as well as lauding the ability of these athletes, Kazimirowski continued by highlighting the potential of Belgium's entire team, saying that "of course, other athletes could surprise us."
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For many athletes, the road to Tokyo was ridden with obstacles, such as a lack of competitions since the pandemic, which made the selection process more complicated. Not only a key element of an athlete's development, competitions present an opportunity to distinguish themselves from others and thereby make the national selection.
The cancellation of smaller events and rescheduling of larger competitions, such as the Paralympics, was therefore frustrating for many athletes. Yet Kazimirowski believes that "it was the only option for the Games" despite the fact that "as an organisation we were completely ready [for Tokyo 202], we were bang on schedule and better prepared than ever."
For the first time, Belgium will have two flag-bearers: Bruno Vanhove, an attacker in the goalball team; and equestrian Michèle George, a triple paralympic champion.
The Brussels Times