Weakened Team Belgium faces stiff competition at World Athletics Championships
The World Athletics Championships kick off on Saturday in Budapest, Hungary. The absence of several key athletes will make it difficult for Team Belgium to match the three medals they won at last year's event in Oregon, USA.
Nafi Thiam will be missed most. The reigning heptathlon world champion has dominated the event for years, winning two Olympic medals, two World Championships and five European gold medals. However, she is suffering from an Achilles tendon injury and won’t be able to defend her title.
Fortunately, Noor Vidts will be competing in the heptathlon. Gold may be out of reach, but if Vidts is on top form in Budapest, she could be a contender for bronze or even silver. The favourite for gold is 22-year-old American Anna Hall, who is expected to be Thiam's main rival in the future.
Marathon runner Bashir Abdi, the bronze medallist in Oregon, will also be absent this year due to scheduling difficulties. And the Belgian Tornadoes, the men's 4x400m relay team that surprised with a bronze medal last year, are struggling with an ageing squad. Brothers and team leaders Kevin and Jonathan Borlée are now well into their 30s, and while there is fresh talent available, it may not be enough for a top-three finish.
Team Belgium does have some young talent and potential underdogs in several events. But athletics has never been the country's most successful sport - Belgium has won just 11 medals in the 40-year history of the competition. And without Thiam and Abdi, it will be difficult for Team Belgium to repeat their excellent performance in Oregon.
©BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND