With over six months to go until Paris Olympics, Team Belgium starts to take shape
The next summer Olympic Games are fast approaching. With just over six months to go until the opening ceremony on 26 July, the names of the Belgian delegation are beginning to emerge. More than 40 athletes have already secured their ticket to the biggest sporting event of 2024.
As is tradition, many Belgian track and field athletes will contest for medals in Paris. Of the eight who have already qualified, the most prominent is undoubtedly Bashir Abdi. The marathon runner caught the eye at the Tokyo Games in 2021 when he took home the bronze medal. He will be joined by Koen Naert, who finished an impressive 10th in Tokyo.
Cycling is another discipline in which Belgium will be among the favourites. Thanks to first and third places in the UCI men's and women's world rankings, the country will send eight cyclists to Paris. Although the teams have not yet been announced, the top riders from 2023, Remco Evenepoel and Lotte Kopecky, are certain to be in the running for gold.
In gymnastics, Paris should have been another chance for two-time world champion Nina Derwael to shine after winning gold on the uneven bars in Tokyo. But with a serious shoulder injury, it remains to be seen whether she will be ready in time.
Luka van den Keybus and Noah Kuavita will try to make up for Derwael's absence. They secured their spots in Team Belgium with strong individual performances at the World Championships in Antwerp earlier this year.
Belgium has a long tradition in equestrian sport: in its first Olympic appearance in 1900, it won three gold, one silver and one bronze medal, the best tally of any participating country that year. More recent performances have been less successful, with the last Olympic medal dating back to 1976. That could change in 2024, however, as strong performances in this year's equestrian season have earned the country a quota of nine spots in Paris.
After a solid sixth place at the recent Sailing World Championships, Emma Plasschaert has secured her place in Team Belgium. The 30-year-old, who was world champion in 2018 and 2021, will be looking to improve on her fourth-place finish at the Tokyo Olympics.
Finally, European featherweight champion Vasile Usturoi will be looking for glory in the boxing ring, thanks to his bronze medal at the recent European Games. And with Oshin Derieuw, Team Belgium will be making history in Paris: having won bronze at the European Games, Derieuw will be Belgium's first ever female boxer at the Olympics.
In total, Team Belgium has more than 40 names. The list will certainly grow in 2024, as the next few months will be dominated by qualifying tournaments for the biggest sporting event on the planet.
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