It's been a while since we last posted any news from Belgium, where a group of national team members recently left the national training center because they did not want to work under the new head coach, controversial Frenchman Yves Kieffer. The last thing we heard was that 8 rebels were training at Wevelgem (Aagje Vanwalleghem's club) under 3 of their former coaches, and that when Yves Kieffer and his wife Marjorie Heuls finally showed up in Ghent on January 15, only a handful of girls were there to meet them.
Belgian national champion Aagje Vanwalleghem
(Photo: Sing Lo/Comaneci Salto)
Now, finally, more news about the situation has emerged, and from a very reliable source, Sporza.
It seems the rebels' insistence on getting former head coach Gerrit Beltman reinstated has finally paid off, to some extent. Minister of Sport Bert Anciaux is making funds available for the reinstatement of Beltman, who will guide national champion Aagje Vanwalleghem and the other rebels at the Wevelgem club. The girls themselves will have to pay the wages of the other coaches to be employed at the club (presumably the same coaches who were previously fired from the Ghent center for sticking with Beltman). The girls' parents are looking for private sponsors to help them carry the financial burden of employing the coaches. Meanwhile, 6 other national team members will remain at the national training center in Ghent, where they will train under former French head coach Yves Kieffer and his wife Marjorie Heuls. One of the 6 girls remaining in Ghent is Gaëlle Mys, who represented Belgium in Beijing.
Els De Nil, the official representative of the parents whose daughters have moved to Wevelgem, explained the situation to Sporza.
"Two weeks ago, we, along with Aagje and Beltman, spoke to Minister Anciaux. The next day he spoke to the other party," said De Nil. "The Minister established that the 2 parties were irreconcilable, as there is a serious crisis of trust. So elite sports manager Ivo Van Aken proposed this setup, and on Sunday we agreed to it."
De Nil continued, "It was a difficult decision to make, as our children were building up social lives in Ghent. But there was too much injustice in the situation. Basically, what is happening at the moment constitutes a rift in the Flemish Gymnastics Federation. When we had our meeting with Van Aken, a member of the Federation admitted that they had made mistakes, but insisted that management would never step down. Our children have become the victims of a power struggle. But they are prepared to take the risks associated with the move to Wevelgem, to Aagje's club. The club is willing to help us out (financially). We are now looking for host families for the girls."
A happy ending for all parties involved? That remains to be seen. The Ministry of Sport will only pay Gerrit Beltman's wages; the other coaches will have to get their wages elsewhere. It is to be hoped that the 8 rebel girls will find sponsors to help them carry the financial burden. At a time when much more famous athletes than them are losing their sponsorship deals, that may be a tall order.