Belgium brings home 19 medals from European Championships


In the first edition of the multi-sport European Championships, Belgium brought home 19 medals, including six from athletics, a record number

Sport policies bear fruit

Belgium has brought home 19 medals from the inaugural edition of the European Championships, which was held in Glasgow and Berlin from 2-12 August. The new European Championships will bring together top athletes from various annual and biennial competitions every four years.

According to Flanders News, the athletics competition brought Belgium six medals, twice what the country has ever won in previous European athletics championships. Most of them came from Glasgow, where the aquatics, cycling, golf, gymnastics, rowing and triathlon took place.

In terms of medal standings, Belgium, with six gold medals, came in 11th of 32 countries. Among the gold medal winners were gymnast Nina Derwael, marathon runner Koen Naert and cyclist Victor Campenaerts.

According to VUB sport scientist Veerle De Bosscher, Belgium’s excellent overall performance at the event is due to a long-term vision for professional sport that was absent in previous decades. “Thirty years ago, a girl with Nina Derwael’s talent would probably never have gotten the chance to win a medal,” she told De Standaard. “That it’s happening now is because she was spotted early, supported by her club and then later by the Flemish Sports Federation via her top sport school.”

Flanders has seven top sport schools, the first of which launched in 1998. Pupils with an aptitude in a certain sport train at least 12 hours a week along with their studies. “Aagje Vanwalleghem, the first Belgian gymnast to ever medal at a European championship, in 2005, was the first product of a top sport school.”

This year Belgium brought home three medals from the gymnastics competition, “proof that the policy is working,” says De Bosscher. “Success is now possible.”

Photo: Flemish runner Koen Naert, who, with only six competions under his belt, brought home gold in the marathon
©Jasper Jacobs/BELGA