Charlene Van Snick, the world's number 4 and the vice-European champion, enjoyed an excellent day. She received a bye in the first round, and won her next two fights with ease. First, she beat Jung-Yeon Chung of South-Korea with an ippon before ousting Eva Csernovicki of Hungary, the world's number 7.
In the semi-finals, 21-year-old Van Snick, who hails from the city of Liège, faced Sarah Menezes of Brazil, the world's number 3 (small photo). The Belgian Crown Prince Filip and IOC President Jacques Rogge saw a well-balanced fight, but Van Snick's opponent was just a bit stronger and won on a yuko - Menezes would go on to beat the reigning Olympic champion Alina Dumitru (Romania) in the final and take the gold.
Van Snick had to battle it out for the bronze medal against Paula Pareto of Argentina, the world's number 6. After a close fight, things went into extra time. The principle of a so-called golden score was applied: the athlete who would make the first score, would win it. The Belgian gained the upper hand, took the most initiative and won on accumulated penalties for her opponent, who applied defensive tactics too much of the time.
"I hope this gives my Belgian colleagues a boost", a relieved Charlene Van Snick told reporters. "And I hope people will appreciate the sport more now and give it the value it deserves."
"I can relax now and enjoy the rest of the Games. I am a VIP now, so I can a bit longer", she smiled. "I didn't know Jacques Rogge and Prince Filip were watching, but I hope they enjoyed the fight."