The Liègeoise is back! A return after more than a year without competition. She has not fought since April 2, 2021. The day of the Antalya Grand Slam where she tore her right knee ligaments. An injury that deprived her of the Tokyo Olympics. Today is the end of several months of hardship. Gabriella Willems who is 46th in the world in -70kg is impatient to get back on the tatami.
“I am coming out of a very complicated period” says the Liègeoise. “The injury, the operation, the rehabilitation. It was very, very long. Today I feel very good. I can’t wait to start competing again. I haven’t had optimal preparation like the others seen I’m coming back from another injury. A small tear in my calf. I was originally supposed to resume in Tbilisi but the tournament was postponed. Then I couldn’t participate in Antalya. So I’m very happy to be here on the mat and I really want to fight”.
The injury, the operation, the rehabilitation… it was very long
Four other Belgians will take to the tatami mats in Sofia. Ellen Salens (-48kg / IJF40), Mina Libeer (-57kg / IJF 17) who had failed at the foot of the podium in Lisbon and Jorre Verstraeten (-60kg / IJF 9) will open the ball on Friday. The Leuven judoka, absent at the last European championships, knows the way to the podium. He already has 2 bronze medals to his credit at the Euro.
“Never 2 without 3 but no more bronze now. We want more. He’s a winner” Explain Cedric Taymansthe technical director of the French-speaking Belgian judo federation. “Jorre wants the gold medal. In a corner of his head, it’s the gold medal he wants. Whether it’s physically or mentally, he’s a boy who is very discreet but he prepares everything meticulously. He puts all the chances on his side. With him, we did a lot of preparation. We were in Brazil for 12 days”.
Never 2 without 3 but no more bronze now…
And on Sunday, the last Belgian to enter the competition will be a “little” newcomer. Yves Ndao, a 21-year-old from Brussels, is the new heavyweight in Belgian judo. 1m90, 145kg. A judoka who is participating in his first senior European championships in Bulgaria.