The countdown clock to Paris is also running for the Belgian pistes. Earlier this week we already outlined the complex puzzle for men, but the pieces are not yet clicking together for women either. National coach Kenny De Ketele discusses the options and the candidates themselves also have their say.
National coach of the Belgian track team, it is a knife that cuts both ways in the final straight line to the Olympic Games in Paris.
For the men, it will have to be decided in the coming months where the priority lies, the team race or the team pursuit? That choice will determine which riders can book their ticket.
The women’s cards have not yet been shuffled. Lotte Kopecky (28) is in principle a certainty for the pairing race, but with Shari Bossuyt (23), her strongest partner is inactive after an abnormal doping test.
It raises questions for national coach Kenny De Ketele and his New Zealand counterpart Tim Carswell. Who will they send to Paris later?
In Sportweekend yesterday, Bossuyt told how she takes little account of the Games.
“I still have plan A in my head. As long as there is no official conviction of Shari, I will include her. I still hope that she can be there,” the national coach looks at his cards.
The signals – think of the Toon Aerts affair – look unfavorable. “There is still no official reporting. I hope something happens soon, because waiting is not good for anyone.”
As long as there is no official conviction of Shari Bossuyt, I will include her. I still hope she can be there in Paris.
Shari Bossuyt and Lotte Kopecky have already proven that they are a successful tandem.
“Plan B is also ready with a few youngsters who can certainly take the experience of Paris towards Los Angeles 2028,” De Ketele takes a different approach.
“With or without Lotte, we still have to see. There is no pressure there, but there will be a Belgian duo riding the team race anyway.”
“Lotte is a certainty for the omnium. That suits her. It is a bit of a puzzle to keep her fresh and mentally sharp, but if anyone can do that, it is Lotte.”
“We have already had meetings about it and all coaches are on the same page.”
Plan B and plan C
Kenny De Ketele confirms that in the current context the team race no longer seems a must for Lotte Kopecky, but his heart is still bleeding a bit.
“With Shari there, we might be a title candidate. I already felt like I was floating towards the Games. I just hope it will end on a positive note.”
So plan A remains Kopecky/Bossuyt, plan B is an alternative couple with Kopecky as one of the partners. Among the young candidates, Hélène Hesters (18) and Katrijn De Clercq (21) are mainly considered.
“I believe in plan A and plan B. Without pressure, the young people can perhaps try to achieve a great performance. It is certainly an advantage if you have experienced how great the Games are at a young age.”
“When you are there for the second time in 2028, you put your blinders on and focus on your discipline.”
“That could be the stepping stone to 2028 for Hesters and De Clercq. But plan C (the young people without Kopecky) is also absolutely possible.”
The next six months will be very important to see whether the team race is feasible and whether it is worth the effort.
Kopecky himself also briefly addressed the issue in Ghent. “Nothing has been decided yet about the team course,” she said.
“The next six months will be very important to see whether it is feasible and whether it is worth the effort.”
“I don’t have any information about Shari, but at the moment the chance is very small. Although I wouldn’t rule it out. And the other options are possible, yes.”
Will Katrijn De Clercq (21) take Shari Bossuyt’s place?
“Dream that becomes reality or great opportunity to gain experience”
“First and foremost, I sincerely think it’s a shame for Shari. It’s so unfair,” responds Katrijn De Clercq, one of the possible replacements.
“For me, on the other hand, it would be an incredible opportunity, 4 years earlier than I thought. I had LA 2028 in my head, but I will try to prove myself as hard as possible this spring.”
If De Clercq is selected, she will possibly race with Kopecky. “Lotte is a winner. I just hope that I can prove myself at the European Championships (mid-January) and show Lotte that I have what it takes. I feel that I am taking steps every year and it is still 8 months.”
“Racing with Lotte at the Games would be a dream come true. With Hélène I get a great opportunity to gain experience.”
Everything depends on what Lotte decides, which is logical. Everyone will agree with her choice. They have to do what’s best for her.
“We all hope that Shari can race again tomorrow, but we also know that it is not realistic,” adds Hélène Hesters, sister of Jules.
“We are competing for the place with a few riders. I will bring what I can with me and then I will learn with wide eyes. If it is not the case, then someone else deserves it more than me.”
“But it would be something, yes, although I am not working on it yet. Everything depends on what Lotte decides, which is logical.”
“Everyone will agree with her choice. She has to do what is best for her. What is my preference? I haven’t thought about it yet. Even going to Paris as a backup is nice!”