I wanted to take a few days before I write this article, because I wanted to talk not only about the results but about what the Men's National gymnastics team has achieved here in Glasgow. I wanted to go deeper, I wanted to try to find the right words because I feel like this is an important moment, a moment that we will remember.
I also wanted to let the disappointment go away. Let's be clear, I'm not disappointed IN the gymnasts, I'm disappointed FOR them. But man! 17th in the World! That's huge! And yes, Belgium will not get the chance to send a full team at the test event, and yes, the selection will be hard given all the potential this team has, and yes, some will be left behind because of this. And yes, finally, the year and the road will be long for those athletes.
But once again: 17th IN THE WORLD! Four years ago, at the 2011 World Championships, Belgium didn't even have a full team! In the past three years, those boys have improved so much! They already made history last year, placing 19th at Worlds, earning the best result Belgium has ever had and qualifying a full team for a pre-olympic World Championships. And on Monday, they were 17th! They not only improved their team total by two points (and believe me, in gymnastics, that matters), they also improved their ranking.
I know that every single word I write here might not count for them, because of course, they are disappointed, because it was so close, because they could feel this might be their year, but guys, you made history for your country once again.
Let's have a look at the team, shall we?
First of all, we have newcomers : Florian Landuyt (Sportac Deinze) and Jonathan Vrolix (Olympia Houthalen). Florian, let's be honest, didn't had the best podium training. But he came back so strong during qualifications, placing 1st reserve for the all-around final. Jonathan only competed on three apparatuses but he showed he wasn't afraid to stand up for the team. Then we have Bram Louwije (Turnkringe Vlamertinge), who was reserve last year. Four of his scores counted in the team total. He scored more than 14 on vault, a score that was dropped only because the others scored better. He is the 3rd all-arounder among the team. Jimmy Verbaeys (Blauwput Omnisport) didn't had the best day of his life out there. But you know what? Let's give him a break. Jimmy has been part of the Senior Belgian team for the past 4 years. He has been to ALL the World Championships since he turned senior in 2011. Same goes for the European Championships, except for this year. He went to the European Games, and most importantly, he was the first men's gymnast ever to qualify for the all-around final at the Olympic Games! So yes, Jimmy had mistakes during qualifications. A bad day happens, but he will learn the lesson and he will come back stronger from this. Siemon Volkaert (GymMax) only competed on three events. This year has been hard for him, as he was injured, but he still competed at the 2015 European Championships (11th on floor). Just a few weeks ago, he didn't do so well at the Osijek Grand Prix. But here, in Glasgow, all of his scores counted in the team total. I've been really impressed by Siemon on the past week, not only during the qualifications but also during podium training. And then we have Maxime Gentges. Who had a mistake too, that's true, but who didn't let go, coming back strong to place 2nd all-arounder.
This team can be really proud, each gymnast can be proud of himself. I know all the efforts, all the time, all the energy, all the heart they put into their gymnastics. I have the chance to know some of them, being able to talk to them, seeing how they train. Yes, you missed a qualifying spot for the test event, but to me, that's not the most important thing. To me, it is the fact that you put Belgium Gymnastics on the World's map and showed that we are not a small nation anymore.
You made history for your country and I want to thank you for that.