The fifth edition of FFG’s GymGala (FFG – French Gymnastics Federation) on Saturday at Forest National will welcome several world-class gymnasts, such as Germany’s Fabian Hambuchen and Britain’s Rebecca Downie. Alongside them, young Belgian athletes will have the opportunity to perform for the audience in this show which will also include circus entertainers and athletes in less publicised disciplines such as aerobics and acrobatics. According to FFG’s Sylvie Ronsse, the event is designed to attract spectators of all ages and even complete newcomers in the hope of getting Belgians more interested in gymnastics. She adds that French-speaking Belgium hasn’t shown as much interest for rhythmic and artistic gymnastics as Flanders has. “Unlike Aagje Vanwalleghem, figurehead for Flanders” at the 2004 Olympics, “we don’t have a famous gymnast to rally round.” Yet, the French Federation hasn’t lost hope. “Our girls are aiming more for 2020,” says Sylvie Ronsse.
Laura Waem, who is taking part in the gala, is already well-known to the team of young women: she came 7th in the individual ranking at the last European Championships, and was also among the 24 finalists in the all-around at the World Championships last October.
As for the boys, Jimmy Verbaeys will not be participating. “We hoped he would be able to participate, but he has recently had surgery on his hand,” the Federation was told. “But the gala will be seeing Maxime Gentges, one of today’s most promising athletes. He is now senior and on a par with Jimmy.” Now 19 years old, Maxime Gentges helped Belgium rank 19th worldwide during team qualifications for the 2014 World Championships. He says that taking part in the gala gives him “great satisfaction as it enables us to show off the result of our hard work. We get feedback from the audience and my friends and family come to see me. And, of course, knowing I’ll be training alongside Fabian Hambuchen is something else!” The multiple German medallist, high bar specialist, is one of the star names of the 2014 Gala, along with Downie, Spiridonova and the Frenchman Samir Ait Said.
Young Anais Collin from Brussels will be performing in rhythmic gymnastics.