Stuart Weir wrote this column about the local athletes, and he called it, Brussels is in Belgium. Stuart Weir does have a sense of humor.
One of the many things that I enjoy about the Allianz Memorial Van Damme is how seriously that the stars of Belgian athletics take it. Nafi Thiam, who just won the World and European heptathlons, competed in the long jump, a move from the HJ, to compete in front of 30,000 Belgian fans at King Badouin Stadium. The Brothers Borlee, 3/4 of the Belgian 4x400m for most of the past decade, did the very same.
Stuart Weir captures this story in this feature and reminds us that, whatever side of the pond that we are on, most countries, large and small do not have the plethora of athletics stars found on Team USA or Team GBR.
Brussels is in Belgium!
The Van Damme Memorial is an international event, attracting the cream of world athletics but the meet also preserved a strong Belgian flavor with several strong performances by local athletes.
Heptathlon world champion Nafi Thiam was entered in the high jump, but with a toe injury restricting her take-off, she switched to the long jump. Still not fully fit, she came; she only managed 6.46 for fourth but had said in the press conference before the meet that she had been determined not to miss the chance to compete before a home crowd.
Kévin Borlée won the family championship, I mean the 400m race, with brothers Jonathan and Dylan fourth and fifth.
The pre-program allowed 150 Belgian young people to compete in the event.
Eliott CRESTAN 800m 1:44.24
Julien WATRIN 400m hurdles 48.66 – also a national record.
Helena PONETTE 400m 51.82
Cynthia BOLINGO 400m 50.19 – also a national record.
Noor VIDTS Long jump 6.40
Alexander Doom, third in the 400, expressed it well: “The aim of today was to enjoy myself in front of a home crowd. It´s so special to run here. The Belgian fans are really amazing and spectacular. they were already cheering so loud when the speaker announced us so that was so great for us as athletes”.
Julien Watrin echoed these thoughts: “I am really happy to run a Belgian Record in front of the home crowd”.
Cynthia Bolingo took the opportunity given by a national record in front of a home crowd to make a plea for greater diversity in the sport, saying: “I started a new project ‘Bolingo Embracing Diversity. We want to promote diversity and inclusion. Most coaches are still white men. In Belgium there are only two female coaches, and they still face the glass ceiling. We want the system in the sports institutions to change, so that girls can believe that they can be part of the system too.”