Mystics forward Emma Meesseman had a big 2018. She was the EuroLeague Women 2017-18 Final Four MVP and led the Belgian women’s national basketball team to a fourth place finish in the 2018 FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. They are all big time achievements, especially for a nation that never experienced sustained success in women’s basketball.
Now, Meesseman and her national team are nominated as the Sportswoman, Team, and Coach of the Year in Belgium’s Sportgala (Dutch) or Gala du Sport (French), the country’s national sports awards. The event will be held on December 22 at the Docks Dome in Brussels.
Meesseman’s Competition for Sportswoman of the Year
The athletes whom Meesseman is against are well known in their own right, not just within Belgium or neighboring countries with a similar culture like the Netherlands. You may be familiar with them already depending on what sports you like besides basketball. It just so happens that Meesseman is also competing for the award against the same athletes she did last year when she was nominated
Nafissatou Thiam, heptathlete - Thiam won the gold medal for the heptathlon in Berlin this year. Last year, she won the World Championship in London and in 2016, Thiam won the Olympic Gold Medal for the heptathlon. Simply put, she’s the one to beat in this sport. Last year, Thiam beat Meesseman and was the Belgian Sportswoman of the Year. In fact, Thiam may very well have the biggest profile among all Belgian female athletes since Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin were on the global tennis stage.
Nina Derwael, gymnast - Derwael won the gold medal at the World Championships this year in Doha, Qatar on the uneven bars. This is an improvement over her bronze medal performance at last year’s World Championships. Derwael doesn’t have the profile that Dutch gymnast Sanne Wevers has with her stunning upset on the balance beam in the 2016 Olympics against American phenom Simone Biles. But Derwael is still the first Belgian to win gold on the world stage and could very well win a Gold Medal in the 2020 Olympics.
Why Meesseman deserves to win anyway - Of the three, Meesseman is the underdog because Thiam and Derwael have bigger profiles. That said, Meesseman was the engine who made Belgium relevant in Europe and the world. Without her, Belgium wouldn’t have played in a World Cup this year, and they wouldn’t have won the bronze medal in last year’s EuroBasket Women. Besides, she even won an individual award as the EuroLeague Women Final Four MVP!
The Women’s Basketball Team’s Competition for Team of the Year
The Belgian Cats (the women’s basketball team’s nickname) will face off against two other teams for the team of the year.
De Rode Duivels/Les Diables Rouges (Men’s National Soccer Team) - The Belgium men’s national soccer team is one of the world’s best. They finished with the bronze medal in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, their best finish ever. In fact, Belgium is ranked first in the world! De Rode Duivels (Dutch), Les Diables Rouges (French), or The Red Devils have a world class roster with names like Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Kevin De Bruyne, Thibaut Courtois, and of course, Meesseman’s twin brother from another mother, Romelu Lukaku. If they didn’t play eventual World Cup champion France in the semifinals, it’s possible that Belgium would be world champs instead!
Belgian Tornados (Men’s 4x100 Meter Relay Team) - The men’s relay team of Dylan Borlée, Jonathan Borlée, Jonathan Sacoor, Kévin Borlée, Robin Vanderbemden, and Julien Watrin won the Gold Medal at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin this year. They set a European Athletics Championships record in the final heat, going 2:59:47, edging out the team from Great Britain who were favorites coming in.
Why the Belgian Cats deserve to win anyway - Like Meesseman individually, the women’s basketball team is an underdog against the men’s soccer and men’s 4 x 100 meter relay teams. The women’s basketball team didn’t medal in the World Cup while the men’s soccer and 4 x 100 meter relay teams did. So the prohibitive favorite is the Belgian Tornados.
However, the women’s basketball team wasn’t expected to make a semifinals berth in the World Cup. No one really knew what to expect to be honest. Meanwhile the men’s soccer team was one of the favorites to win the World Cup while the track team is one of the stronger ones in Europe. So if you’re an American Mystics fan (that’s the vast majority of you reading this!!!), then you know who to root for to win this award: the Belgium women’s national basketball team!