New Olympic champions Nafie Thiam and the Red Lions landed at Zaventem Airport on Saturday around 3.30pm. They were welcomed by a small delegation of family and friends. Belgian women’s basketball, heptathlon star Nour Wiedets and Belgian kayakers also returned home on Saturday.
It was Nafeh Thiam, who extended her title to Al-Sibai on Thursday, who first arrived at the entrance hall with a carriage full of heavy bags. The athlete still has not fully recovered from the very emotionally difficult journey to Tokyo. “I am very happy to be back in Belgium, and to come back with a medal is always special. It is good that there is a lot of interest in my performance, but I will go to my family first and then rest for a while,” it seems. Thiam has not yet spoken about her future. “I always want to be the best athlete possible,” said the Sebai star.
Anyway, Thiam plans to compete in the high jump at Memorial Van Damme in September. “But I’m not thinking about medals in Paris yet.”
Then the Belgian cats arrived at the arrival hall. Their Olympic adventure ended in the quarter-finals after a painful loss to Japan, a match decided in just the last fifteen seconds. “We’re here with mixed feelings, it’s still pretty bad,” says Emma Meeseman, who assures that disappointment will give way to “feeling better” in a few days. The basketball player is completely satisfied that the cats put Belgian basketball on the map. “We have a lot of people who have never seen basketball behind us.”
Trainer Philip Mustadagh has not yet told him if he will remain a Belgian cat trainer. “The federation will decide that in the coming days. We have already achieved our goals, only there was something else in it, just like the European Championship. If you see that Japan also gives France the pando, then we also had a chance but the ‘if’ then it doesn’t count in the best sports”.
These Olympics were undoubtedly revealed by Noor Wiedets, the 25-year-old heptathlon athlete and bioengineering science student. She finished fourth in the heptathlon, but is still very satisfied with her track. “I never dared dream of finishing fourth. Now we will rest and recover. The goal is to be there in Paris and develop myself, but I don’t look at the medals,” it seems. Vidts also got back the gold for teammate Thiam. “Nafie has put in a very good performance, which we can be proud of. It has always been a dream to be in the Games, especially with such a wonderful Belgian athlete.”
Finally, it was The Red Lions, who crowned themselves with the “Golden Lions”, who appeared in Zaventem in an elegant suit. With small eyes, but a big smile, they greeted the media and relatives present. “We came for gold and achieved it. Later I will be able to tell many stories to my grandchildren. For now, I especially want to show everyone my gold medal,” says Alexander Hendricks.
Retired coach Shane McLeod is also happy to celebrate with his Red Lions. “It’s good to be home, today is a day to celebrate, not to mourn my farewell.” For the Red Lions, the holiday isn’t over yet, and they will be honored later on Saturday at the Rogerplein in Brussels. First, they are transported through the center of Brussels in an open bus.
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