121 Belgian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics: how many medals can Team Belgium bring home?
The Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo had their official start today with the opening ceremony. Dubbed the 'Silent Games' due to the lack of spectators or the 'Corona Games', they welcome the biggest Belgian delegation since Helsinki 1952, though there was some bad news on the eve of the Games: Jelle Geens will miss the triathlon due to corona woes. Meanwhile, 22 Belgians made their appearance at the long-awaited opening ceremony.
Heptathlon athlete Nafi Thiam and hockey player Felix Denayer were Belgium's two flag-bearers this afternoon (evening in Tokyo). They headed a group of 22 Belgian athletes - the number was reduced due to corona, click on the video above to watch this Belgian representation and to taste the atmosphere. A total of 206 delegations made the spotlights.
The presence of 121 athletes means that Belgium boasts the biggest delegation since Helsinki 1952. There were 122 participants at first, but tennis ace David Goffin had to abandon due to injury.
This morning, it was reported that Jelle Geens didn't meet the strict corona demands after a positive test some time ago. Geens, the world's number 9, was deemed to have a chance to grab a medal in the men's triathlon, but can't take part. He may make it to the mixed relays later on.
The high number of Belgian participants is due to the fact that various teams managed to qualify, such as the Belgian Cats (women's basketball team), the 3x3 men's basketball team, the Red Lions and the horse jumping team among others.
Three top candidates for Gold
While the hopes for a swimming medal are extremely slim or non-existent, Belgium does have some top aces bearing the nation's hopes for a medal, such as the defending heptathlon champion Nafi Thiam, the men's hockey team with Felix Denayer and gymnast Nina Derwael as the three top candidates, pundits agree.
Nina Derwael has grabbed world titles in the past - now the moment has come to try and meet the highest challenge at the uneven bars, her specialty. The Red Lions, as the men's national hockey team is dubbed, took the silver in Rio and are aiming for the highest prize now. Nafi Thiam has enjoyed a smooth build-up so far. She is the defending champion and looks ready. If she has no injury woes, it will be hard to stop her at the age of 26.
Other candidates for a medal include Matthias Casse (judo), Wout Van Aert and Remco Evenepoel (cycling, both the road race and the time trial), Emma Plasschaert (sailing), Jolien D'Hoore and Lotte Kopecky (women's track cycling) and Jaoud Achab (taekwondo) - to name just a few. If Team Belgium would manage 10 medals, it would be a big success. Belgium had six medals in Rio in 2016.
An individual Belgian athlete managing to get Gold, will earn 50,000 euros - apart from eternal fame, of course. Silver will trigger a 30,000 euro bonus, bronze 20,000. For teams, the individual bonuses are lower.