By Rocky Swift
SAITAMA, Japan (Reuters) – Kim Mestdagh hit a sore throat and collapsed and fell on the court stage, breathing heavily on Monday in Belgium’s first women’s basketball match at the Olympics.
The court at the Saitama Super Arena, north of Tokyo, was his head coach Philip Mestdagh, who is also his father. On the bench was his sister and teammate, Hanne.
Kim, 31, woke up in court on her own and remained in court until the last Belgian whistle blows in China 62-74.
At a post-match press conference, Coach Mestdagh dismissed family contacts and concerns about Kim’s collision.
“At home, okay, I’m the father, but over here, they’re players like other players,” said Coach Mestdagh.
Belgian cats, as they are known, made their first appearance at the Olympics in the run-up to the medals, advancing to the knockout stages of the competition.
They finished 2-1 in the first leg, relying heavily on power striker Emma Meesseman, who led all the other players in the women’s category in scoring and became second in the rebounds and faced Japan in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.
Coach Mestdagh along with Kim and Hanne was part of the Belgian team that took bronze in the 2017 European Women Basketball Championship and won the Olympic belt at the 2019 event. The sisters also played together at Colorado State University and have a brother Robin who plays softball.
“Basketball works for our family,” said Hanne, 28, highlighting the support she received from her sister. “He helps me with things, he can talk to me, he trains me sometimes and as a team partner. So it’s great to be able to do this and share this unit.”
(Report by Rocky Swift; Edited by Lincoln Feast.)
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