The Belgian Cats will soon face their second big goal of the summer. After the European Championship, where they narrowly missed the final but did win bronze, the Olympic Games will soon await.
National coach Philip Mestdagh made room in his twelve-man selection, as he had announced earlier, for the now 40-year-old Ann Wauters. The Belgian basketball legend wants to say goodbye in Tokyo in beauty and Mestdagh counts on his old age blanket on and off the field.
“Besides the physical and the tactical and everything that happens on the field, it will be a very tough assignment in Tokyo. Hopefully we will be able to engage Ann for that. It also becomes a mental competition. We will be away from home with a team for a long time, which is not easy, especially because we will have to stay in our room a lot in a kind of isolation, and then it is really important that you have strong figures who can help carry the team in mentally difficult situations,” he explains on Saturday.
Wauters prepared individually and, according to the national coach of the Cats, is ready to show himself one last time. “Her individual training sessions were forwarded and she followed them closely. I myself was in the room on Thursday to check out her level of form. In any case, Ann is OK and ready to leave and experience the rest of the preparation for the Olympic Games.”
Belgium will first meet top country Australia in its group at the Games. Then Puerto Rico and China wait. “We will have to give everything in every race to get the best possible result because in addition to the top two in each group, only two best thirds will go through,” explains Mestdagh.
The Cats have been part of the international (sub)top for several years and may (quietly) dream of an Olympic medal, but Mestdagh advocates realism. “We are not the country that has to blow high and say that we will play for the medals. Just like with the European Championship, we have to look step by step in which situation we roll. First of all, we have to survive the group stage. Only then can we talk about other ambitions.”
Jana Raman missed the European Championship due to a fracture in her hand, but is in the Olympic selection. Her recovery is going according to plan, she explains. “It goes well. Physically I was only out for five days. After that I was already able to cycle. This week I was already able to throw a power ball. I am currently a little ahead of schedule. I have a final check on Monday but everything looks good.”