Belgium wins first Olympic medals
16 August 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium has won its first Olympic medals, gaining bronze in judo and cycling during the first weekend of the Athens games.
The first Belgian win came on Saturday when Axel Merckx finished third in the men’s road race, the second on Sunday when Ilse Heylen fought her way to
bronze in the women’s judo.
Merckx’s win was the first Olympic cycling success since Walter Godefroot won a bronze medal in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Merckx finished 10 seconds after the leading pair that broke away from the pack 21 kilometres from the finish line. Italian Paolo Bettini won gold and Portuguese cyclist Sergio Paulinho got the silver medal.
The Belgian was greeted by a tearful father as he crossed the line. Eddy Merckx, gained 525 professional titles in the course of his own cycling
His son must now only win a prize at the Paris-Tours race and a Merckx will have a title at all the events on the cycling calendar.
“This medal is a dream that has become reality. This Olympic course was one of the goals of my season,” said Merckx.
His Olympic success was closely followed by Ilse Heylen on Sunday when she ranked third in the women’s under 52 kg judo event. Heylen beat French contender and last year’s world champion Annabelle Euranie to gain her prize.
Her medal is the tenth Belgian judo win at an Olympic games, seven of which have been bronze.
The prize completes a dazzling season for the 27-year-old Flemish judo star, who has also bagged wins at two A-class tournaments and a silver medal at the European championships in Budapest.
“This is better than everything. The Games are the ultimate test as they only come round every four years,” Heylen said.
Belgium is also making waves in the sailing regattas, with Sebastien Godefroid finishing second and fifth in two Finn class events and Philippe Bergmans taking third place on the first day of the regatta Laser class
Gymnastics has also thrown up a pleasant surprise for Belgian viewers, with 16-year-old Aagje Vanwalleghem qualifying for the ‘all round’ final, an Olympic first for the Belgian team.
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news