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Famous Sports People in Belgium
Belgium is widely known as a sports nation. Sport is inevitable part of the everyday life of Belgians, football being the most popular among them. Other loved and well developed sports disciplines are tennis, cycling, athletics, basketball and motor sports. The country has produced first-class sports figures in all these sports during the course of time. A large number of professional and amateur sport clubs offer the chance to anyone to develop their sports talents. Abundant state-of-the-art sport facilities further contribute to the fame of Belgium as a host of various international competitions. The most important Belgian sportsmen are described below.
(1982-01-06 - )
Justin Henin is the most important contemporary Belgian sports star and arguably the best female tennis player worldwide at the moment. Henin entered the big sport in 1997 by winning the junior title in singles at the French Open at the age of 15. Her first major success was in 2001 when she reached the women’s final at Wimbledon, losing to Venus Williams. The same year the young player won the Fed Cup with Belgium. Between 2003 and 2007 Justin Henin managed to win a total of seven Grand Slam tournaments – four times the French Open, two times the US Open and once the Australian Open. The peak of her career up to now has been the Olympic title in women’s singles from Athens 2004 when she beat Amelie Mauresmo in the final. The Belgian player first climbed the top of the WTA ranking in 2003 and since then has spent a total of 108 weeks as № 1 in the world, which makes her the sixth most successful female tennis player in the world, as far as the WTA ranking is concerned.
(1983-06-08 - )
Kim Clijsters is the other great star of Belgian tennis along with Justin Henin. She boasts a row of excellent achievements in her career, including the fact that she was simultaneously at the top of the WTA rankings in singles and doubles in August 2003. Clijsters made her debut in professional tennis in 1999, after she had already won the French Open and the US Open titles in doubles the previous year. Her greatest success was the victory at the US Open in singles in 2005, accompanied by the titles in doubles from the French Open and Wimbledon in 2003. During her relatively short professional career Kim Clijsters managed to win a total of 45 WTA tournaments. In May 2007 the Belgian star retired from active sport due to the large number of injuries.
(1959-06-24 - )
Michel Preud’homme is one of the most talented goalkeepers in the world and certainly the best Belgian one. He began his football career in Standard Liege in 1977 before joining KV Mechelen, where he spent his best years as a player. With this Belgian side he won Belgian league title, Belgian Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and European Super Cup in the period between 1987 and 1989. Preud’homme also played in Benfica between 1994 and 1999, when he stopped his active career. On the international level, he played 58 matches for the national team of Belgium, taking part in two World Cup events – in 1990 and 1994, and being the first winner of the Yashin Award for the best goalkeeper at the latter. Nowadays Preud’homme remains connected to football – he has been coach of his first club Standard since 2006.
(1972-11-25 - )
Stefan Everts ranks among the most prominent figures in the history of motor sports. The motocross racer, son of the four-time motocross World Champion Harry Everts, far surpassed his father’s achievements, winning the incredible 10 world titles between 1991 and 2006. Everts first entered the World Championship at the age of 17 and two years later won his first world title, becoming the youngest world champion at that time. The Belgian, who is famous for his extraordinary fine style of riding, competed for the teams of Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda and Yamaha and won titles with all of them. Everts was elected five times Belgian Sportsman of the Year between 2001 and 2006. The legendary racer still holds the records for most titles and most Grand Prix victories in motocross. In 2006 he ended his active career and became race director for the KTM factory team in the World Championship.
Paul Van Himst
(1943-10-02 - )
Paul van Himst remains in the memories of Belgians as a great football midfielder and the National Team player known by the nickname of Polle Gazon. He was only 17 when chosen as Belgium's Footballer of the Year. He was the star of the RSC Anderlecht of Bruxelles, winning the Belgian championship eight times with this club. Between 1960 and 1974, he played 82 times with the Belgian National Team, scoring 30 goals. After he retired, he became the coach of Anderlecht, as well as the manager the National Team during the 1994 World Cup. Interestingly, Van Himst starred in John Huston's film 'Escape to Victory' (1981). In 2003, on the occasion of the UEFA Jubilee, the Belgian Football Association chose van Himst as the Golden Player of Belgium, regarding him as the most outstanding footballer of the past 50 years. Furthermore, he was awarded with the Golden Shoe four times over his career.
(1890-10-08 - 1971-01-16 )
This native of Brussels was a renowned cyclist and three-time champion of the Tour de France. It was in 1910 that Thys first won the national cycle-cross championship for Belgium. At the age of 22, he won the Tour de France for the first time, which makes him one of the youngest winners of this race ever. His second victory came a year later, as Thys wanted to defend his title. His great career was brutally interrupted by World War I, during which he served in the French Army (in Military Aviation). In 1920, Thys returned to prove that he was still a powerful force on a bike, becoming champion of the French routes for the third time. Such a triple success was not repeated by any other cyclist until 1955, when Louison Bobet equalled the record.