Since 2017, the basketball-loving Belgians are happy to perform better in the major tournaments almost every summer. It seems that the success of Belgian women’s basketball did not come out of thin air, but it did not. Thanks to Ann Waters: “It’s a really big impact.”
Tomorrow play a game Belgian cats Their matches are in the quarter-finals of the Olympic Games against the host nation Japan. In those quarter-finals, Belgium “Klein Dombe” was among the superpowers. A unique story that began years ago.
In 2007, Belgium snatched alongside one of the Olympic qualifying cards for the European Championships. It seems that Ann Waters, the top scorer of that European Championship, must give up her Olympic dream and hit the stop button with the national team.
Young Sophie Hendricks is one of the new forces. “I was traveling when Quinn Omans (general manager then and now, editor) called me to ask if I wanted to get involved. Playing with Wambé, De Mondt, Deyaert and Boonen, that was a thing.”
But Hendrickx doesn’t experience many successes. “It was a bit of a search for everyone. There was a bit of stability in the framework, I had a total of 6 national coaches. It was a bit of a go and a bit so it was hard to build something.”
“As a national coach, it’s important that you earn players for yourself”
In a European Championship, Belgian women’s basketball no longer hits. “We were close in 2015, there was already something in it. There were already players like Julie Fanlou, Antonia Delaer, Jana Raman and Kim Meddagh.”
“With the arrival of Daniel Gothals as national coach, I first noticed that he has become more professional and that has improved since then. There was also a clear and structural vision from the union.”
Then Philip Mustadagh takes the helm. “He was Goethals’ assistant and then took over. Staff and core remain the same.” But Mustang still has a trump card up his sleeve: Emma Messman and Ann Waters.
“He knew Emma from Ypres and they had a good relationship. So Philip took the initiative to contact Ann Wauters. He explained the situation and the fact that Emma would stick to herself probably convinced Ann.”
“As a national coach, it’s important that you earn players for you. Relatively speaking, they’ve got a good click: Philip is very human, but also very ambitious and direct.” This convinced Ann Waters.
Sophie Hendricks with Messmann and Delery after the bronze medal at the European Championships 2021.
Ann Waters’ role should not be underestimated
With Emma Meesseman and Ann Wauters on board, cats get a quality syringe. “As a player, I’ve basically noticed that the level of training has gone up,” says Hendrix, who was a captain at the time.
But Anne Waters’ influence isn’t just limited to the basketball court. The national coach described it this way for the Olympics: “Without her, at the beginning of 2015, no such history would have been written with the cats. Everything we’ve done since 2017 is largely thanks to Ann Waters.”
Hendricks agrees, “It also elevates the team mentally even higher. The effect is really cool. You can’t help but respect her honor roll. When Ann says something, everyone listens.”
Anne’s bite and focus on the 2017 European Championship quarter-finals, it was great to see.
With the Meesseman and the Wauters, the Belgian cats qualified for the European Championship 2017, and this is where the first chapter of the fairy tale was written. Hendrickx has very fond memories of her. “It was a very beautiful moment. We were a tight-knit group and thanks to the strong performances from Ann, Emma and Kim Tadawul, it all worked out.”
Belgium won the bronze medal. “Those feelings and those joys, it was unprecedented for us. It was something so pure.” Hendricks especially remembers how Waters made it to the quarter-finals.
“Bite her and her focus in that match, it was great to see her. It was clear to her that we were going to win. Then she grabbed her shopping cart and took everyone to a higher level.”
The race to the European Championship in Prague and the bronze in it is the key to success. “This was the go from just not, to just almost,” Hendricks says. “That was the turning point, thanks to this important combination of young talent and experience.” After the 2017 European Championships, Waters began to believe in her Olympic dream again.
Slovenia still puts a smile on my face
After that European Championship, Hendrix said goodbye as an international, but she’s the first to see the cats grow the most: a fourth place in the World Cup, a place in the Olympics, and once again a European Championship bronze in 2021.
The bond she has with her teammates at the 2017 European Bronze Championship will never be broken again for a reason: Slovenia. “When I think of Slovenia, it makes me smile,” Hendricks laughs.
“Slovenia was our base for a training camp in the summer of 2014 for several years. It was a beautiful location: for training, but also for team building and hiking in the forest.”
The coach of the national team personally approached the players to persuade them to join the training camp. “It was good for the Federation to have us there, even though we did not go to the European Championship.”
This also requires sacrifices. “There were also players who had to take time off or unpaid leave to move forward. That showed the desire to. These are really beautiful memories and that creates a bond.”
You always see Team Chemistry with cats. “Those periods in Slovenia brought us closer together. In the long run, everyone was looking forward to it. A good foundation was laid in Slovenia, and although it was the startup phase, the success began here.”
The International Basketball Federation presented a report on the Belgian cats
programma belgian cats
|China||Serbia||Wednesday 3 am|
|Australia||United States of America||Wednesday 6.40 am|
|Japan||Belgium||Wednesday 10.20 am|
|Spain||France||Wednesday 2 pm|
|Tuesday 27 July||Australia – Belgium||70-85||Transfer|
|Friday 30 July||Belgium – Puerto Rico||87-52||Transfer|
|Monday August 2||China – Belgium||74-62||Transfer|
|the final level|
|Friday August 6||semi-finals (maybe)||6.40 st from 13 m|
|Sunday August 8||final (maybe)||4.30 in|
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