A few weeks ago we reported on the coaching scandal that was brewing in Belgium. Quick recap for those of you who missed it: last September, the Flemish Gymnastics Federation, Gymfed, fired its Dutch head coach, Gerrit Beltman, for being too nice to the girls (he agreed with his gymnasts that they needed more time off from school and training), then invited controversial French coach Yves Kieffer (who coached Emilie Lepennec and Isabelle Severino to their respective Olympic and European titles) to take his position. In the end, their negotiations with Kieffer came to nothing because a pro-Beltman journalist started raking up mud on the former French head coach, who had been accused of mental cruelty by a couple of French gymnasts and been the subject of a large investigation by the FFG, the French Gymnastics Federation. After a quick investigation and a consultation with the FFG, Gymfed announced that it still wanted to work with Kieffer, but the flamboyant Frenchman himself declined the offer, citing a "hostile environment." Exit Kieffer, or so it seemed.
Not so. Gymfed just announced that Kieffer will become their head coach after all. The three remaining coaches at the Ghent training center (Marja Beltman, Rene Poutsma and Sofie Naert, all of whom wanted Gerrit Beltman to be reinstated) have been sacked, and Kieffer and his wife Marjorie Heuls will take over in January, with two Russian coaches who have been in Belgium for a while, Iouri Kiritchenko and Valentina Soldatenkova (Gaelle Mys's coach). Gymfed hopes they will help the Belgian team qualify to the 2012 Olympics.
It is uncertain what national champion Aagje Vanwalleghem will do now that Kieffer has been appointed head coach of the Flemish team. Vanwalleghem previously stated in no uncertain terms that she did not want to work under Kieffer. There are those who believe that Vanwalleghem, who recently won the bronze on vault at the Madrid World Cup Final, will start training at Dutch club Bosan TON, where her former coach Gerrit Beltman (to whom she is very close) is coaching now and where she would be surrounded by the cream of Dutch gymnastics, but our sources tell us Gymfed is trying hard to keep Vanwalleghem in Belgium in some way or another. We'll be interested to see what solution they come up with.