European champion Belgian Cats will be looking for an Olympic ticket in Antwerp: “Lotto Arena and Sportpaleis will give us a great boost”

The Sportpaleis and the Lotto Arena will once again form the backdrop for various international sports competitions in the coming months. The Gymnastics World Championships (September 30-October 8), the European Open tennis (October 15-22), basketball matches of the Antwerp Giants in the BNXT League, the Belgian Cup and perhaps the Champions League and now the prestigious Olympic qualifying tournament with the Belgian Cats . The combined forces of Basketball Belgium (Basketbal Vlaanderen/AWBB), Sport Vlaanderen, BOIC, City and Province of Antwerp and a number of partners made it possible for Belgium and Flanders in particular to organize a second consecutive women’s basketball Olympic qualifying tournament after Ostend 2020. .

Belgian Cats are advancing in the world rankings

In Ostend, the Belgian Cats qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in February 2020 in front of 5,000 enthusiastic fans. Due to the corona pandemic, the Olympic Games in Tokyo did not take place until 2021. The debuting Cats achieved their ambition with a place in the quarter-finals, but the loss against Japan by only one point was for Emma Meesseman, the retiring Ann Wauters and co. , a disappointment.

After Brussels, the Cats also want to set Antwerp on fire. — © BELGIUM

After two bronze medals (2017, 2021) at a European Championship, a fourth (2018) and fifth (2022) place at a World Cup, the icing on the cake for the Belgian Cats followed last summer. After all, they wrote Belgian sporting history at the European Championships in Israel and Slovenia and won the gold medal. Emma Meesseman, who was named the best player (MVP) of the tournament, and her teammates have been among the world’s top players for six years now, in a global sport. In the new world rankings, the Cats will briefly shine in the top five behind superpowers such as America, China and Australia.

Basketball Flanders reacted alertly to the European title and, with combined forces, submitted its candidacy for a new Olympic qualifying tournament. FIBA, the international basketball federation, did not hesitate. After well-received organizations such as the Final Four of the Champions League in the Sportpaleis (2019), the Olympic qualifying tournament in Ostend (2020) and the 3X3 World Cup in 2022 in Antwerp, Belgium presented a nice calling card in terms of organizing.

The Antwerp Belgian Cat Antonia Delaere plays a home match in the Lotto Arena and Sportpaleis. — © BELGIUM

New spectator record for women’s basketball match in Belgium/Sportpaleis?

Naturally, the performance of the Belgian Cats on the one hand and the figure of world star Emma Meesseman on the other play a role. The Cats attract sold-out crowds all over Belgium. From 3,000 spectators has to be moved to halls of 5,000 spectators and even then there are fans on the waiting list. The number of members is increasing, especially among the girls with the “Emma effect”, and with almost 110,000 members, basketball remains more than ever the largest indoor sport.

Ticket sales for the Olympic qualifying tournament will start shortly at the Lotto Arena. If those 5,000 places are gone quickly, they will probably move to the Sportpaleis. Then the Cats immediately wiped out the Belgian spectator record for a women’s basketball match. That is 6,500 fans in the Dôme of Charleroi for the final of the EuroCup Women between Castors Braine and winner Villeneuve D’Ascq with Ann Wauters on March 26, 2015.

Emma Meesseman still has an Olympic account open

With the organization in your own country, a second consecutive qualification for the Olympic Games can also be expected. Emma Meesseman takes it step by step and will not (yet) make any statements regarding Paris. But it is clear that after missing the semi-finals in Tokyo and a possible medal is still waiting for her Olympic account. After winning the Euroleague (Ekaterinburg), the WNBA (Washington Mystics) and the European title with the Belgian Cats five times, an Olympic medal would immediately complete the honors list of the former Sportswoman of the Year.

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