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Belgian Coach Has Mixed Feelings on Olympic Berth
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Belgian team coach Gerrit Beltman is happy that Gaelle Mys has earned a 2008 Olympic berth, but disappointed that 2004 Olympian Aagje Vanwalleghem has not.

Gaelle Mys

"The Worlds in Stuttgart was a competition with mixed feelings," Beltman told IG this week.

At the 2007 World Championships, held Sept. 1-9 in Stuttgart, Mys (pictured) and Vanwalleghem finished 68th and 70th all-around, respectively. This year's Worlds served to qualify the top 12 teams, plus selected individuals, for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. (Belgium did not enter a full team in Stuttgart.)

Mys, as the top all-arounder from a team that did not otherwise qualify for Beijing, was awarded Belgium's individual berth for Beijing. Vanwalleghem, the only Belgian gymnast (male or female) to qualify for the 2004 Athens Games, scored only 0.05 lower than Mys in Stuttgart.

"At the end of the competition I was very disappointed about the way Gaelle preformed," Beltman said. "I know she can do much better than she did. I was satisfied with Aagje. To be back at this level after a severe knee injury is a compliment to her."

Beltman said neither gymnast performed at her best in Stuttgart, but he is pleased that Belgium will again be represented at the Olympics.

"After a few days, a feeling of satisfaction took over my negative thought," he said. "To bring a Belgian girl to the Olympic Games twice within five years isn't a bad achievement, especially when you take the national standard into consideration."

Although the Belgian team does not rank among the world's best, Belgian gymnasts have earned finals berths or medals at every European Championships from 2004-2007.

At the 2004 Europeans in Amsterdam, Vanwalleghem placed 18th in the senior all-around final, and Lynn Moonen placed 21st in the junior all-around final.

At the 2005 Europeans in Debrecen, Hungary, Vanwalleghem placed sixth all-around and won the bronze medal on vault - Belgium's first medal at a European championships.

At the 2006 Europeans in Volos, Greece, Mys placed sixth in the junior all-around, and won the bronze medal on floor exercise.

Beltman also praised Stefanie Van Meerbeeck, the third Belgian woman who competed in Stuttgart. Van Meerbeeck, who turned 15 on Nov. 2, placed 102nd among the 179 women who performed on all four events in Stuttgart.

"Stephanie did what I expected her to do," Beltman said. "She came on the team after (veteran) Chloe Henry had to leave the team with a dislocated elbow."

As with his gymnasts' performance at Worlds, Beltman said he has mixed feelings over the 2008 Olympic fates of Mys and Vanwalleghem, his top two gymnasts.

"My thoughts are a bit split up," he said. "I am very happy for Gaelle, that she gets a chance to go the most important competition possible for a sportsman. Otherwise I feel sad for Aagje that she didn't make it. She worked very hard to get to Stuttgart and have a real chance."

Beltman said he generally agrees with the selection criteria for the 2008 Olympics, although it means that the 20-year-old Vanwalleghem, an all-around finalist at the 2004 Athens Games, will most likely not be taking part. A Tripartite Commission composed of the FIG, International Olympic Committee and local organizing committee will award the final wild card spot next year.

"Having a gymnast qualified already, I think there is no chance to try to get another Belgian gymnast nominated," he said. "My thoughts about the selection process are quite simple. I'm glad there is a possibility for countries with a lower level to bring a gymnast to the Games. I have to take into account that there will be gymnasts with a lower level. As long as we have to struggle to make a team, I hope new rules will still make it possible for us to have a go at it."

Beltman said Mys, who turned 16 on Nov. 16, is planning to upgrade her routines in the Olympic year of 2008.

"We are all working very hard to improve her level," Beltman said. "We are trying to build up a higher Start Value. We're focusing on a Yurchenko 1-1/2 twist (vault), another dismount from bars, more connection value on beam and at least one acrobatic tumbling run with a full-in, back-out."

Mys will not be taking part in the upcoming Olympic test event in Beijing, which begins Nov. 28. Beltman said he's unsure which competitions Mys will take part in next year to prepare for the Olympics in August.

"Regarding the last period (before Beijing), much is uncertain," he said. "This has to do with money."

IG Magazine Related Features
"Might Mys" – Gaelle Mys profile (October 2005)
"Making Her Way" – Aagje Vanwalleghem profile (August/September 2004)
"Rising Moonen" - Lynn Moonen profile (December 2004)

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