ESTAIMPUIS - On January 21st, the Gala of the Golden Judogi took place in the Bourgogne Castle in the province of Hainaut. A great event that was organized nationally by Judo Belgium for the first time and honored the best judo performances of 2022 achieved by the Belgian elite judokas.
Judo Belgium president Sébastien Bonte and the mayor of Estaimpuis Daniel Senesael welcomed the attendees.
"Together, we must improve the judo performances and make the practice of judo even more important and valued in our cities and municipalities, so that our sport remains at the top of the Belgian Olympic sports for many years to come," said Sébastien Bonte in his opening speech.
The chairmen of the regional wings also addressed the guests.
“Our federations benefit from professional athletes who can rely on clubs and passionate coaches without whom nothing would be possible”, says Frédéric Treuttens, president of Judo Wallonie Bruxelles. “We must support and sustain this partnership. Our ability must be connected and pointed in the same direction.” Read the full speech here.
"We still have to try to improve the best practices of both wings and apply them in both regions," said Mike Van de Rostyne, president of Judo Vlaanderen in his speech. "However, I am happy that after a few months I already see a good evolution in that direction, there is a collaboration between the high committees of the two wings, the different national committees have to work more and more on common issues, standardize the regulations." Read the full speech here.
After dinner it was time to introduce all nominees and announce the winners of the Golden Judogi Award. From four categories (Women and Men U18-U21 and Women and Men Seniors) a winner was chosen by a professional jury. The judo community was also able to vote in the run-up to the Gala.
The presentation of the nominees can be downloaded here.
Winners of the Golden Judogi Award 2023 are: Women U18-U21: Camille Sternon Senior Women: Gabriella Willems Men U18-U21: Robbe Demets Men's Seniors: Matthias Casse
There were also two special honors during the Gala. Franky De Moor, former international IJF referee and EJU Director Referee Commission and judo icon Robert Van de Walle (9th dan) were honored for their contribution to judo in general and Belgian judo in particular.
After the presentation of the awards, we gathered some reactions from the laureates and VIPs.
Camille Sternon: "Very, very happy to win this award, because it is the result of all my efforts and all my sacrifices, I am quite pleased."
Gabrielle Willems: : “I thank everyone for this great award. I am very happy receiving it after a long difficult period and I thank all the people who support me, my family, the federation, my sponsor. I am very proud of our Belgian team and I hope that we will progress together for many years."
Robbe Demets: “I am very satisfied with this Award. It is also a confirmation of the excellent season I've had. A season that really felt good, especially after a lesser period the year before. It is of course also because we have a close-knit group of judokas within Judo Vlaanderen who train well together. A motivation for the future. This year, I would like to capture a medal at a European Open so that I can participate in a Grand Prix and a Grand Slam.”
Matthias Casse: “It is always nice to be recognized in the company of all the people you work with on a daily basis and with whom you have built a strong bond. Good motivator towards the Grand Slam of Paris that is coming soon.”
Sébastien Bonte: “The Golden Judogi Gala is a success. They were waiting for a national edition. The presence of 200 people this evening shows that it was a success and that there really was a pattern of expectations. I am therefore pleased with the atmosphere and exchange that has taken place, as well as with the nominees and well-deserved winners.”
Mike Van de Rostyne: “I think it was a successful evening. We have proven that we can work together, Flemish and Walloons, that we can award the people who deserve it. I think this first event is already a first step towards even better and more beautiful. I'm very content. I think it can only grow in the future.”
Frédéric Treuttens: “Ik ben heel blij met het verloop van deze gala avond. Zeker met deze eerste editie op nationaal niveau. Het was echt tijd om dit nationaal te organiseren en niet meer elkeen in ons eigen hoekje te blijven. We moeten samenwerken om de prestaties van onze atleten van zeer hoog niveau onder de aandacht te brengen, en dat kan trouwens alleen maar best tot zijn recht komen op nationaal niveau. De twee vleugels zijn meer dan bereid om hiervoor samen te werken. Er is geen andere manier als we vooruit willen.”
Franky De Moor: “This honor means a lot to me. I have been dedicated to judo, also in arbitration. What was important after my active career as a referee at the highest level is that I was able to leave my mark in the EJU with regard to the arbitration and guidance of the referees. In this way I have left a legacy and specifically for the Belgian referees who today are at a very high level. I think it's nice that I was able to contribute in a way Belgian referees are present on a world level, which also benefits Belgian judo. In a top judo country like Belgium it is normal that there are also top referees. The highest level of contestants also reflects on the highest level of referees. Being an active referee at an Olympic final is the highest you can achieve. However, bringing people to a level where you yourself were once, gives a lot of satisfaction. Of course, that is largely their own merit. I am absolutely satisfied.”
Robert Van de Walle: “I am pleased that the Belgian judo community gathers again, the Dutch speakers and the French speakers. I think it is important that we can work together. For me, it’s the only way to put judo further on track and to achieve even better results. It's not against each other, but with each other we have to work. Recognition towards the champions is also a positive thing. That should be celebrated. You can also thank people who say goodbye. Grateful for what they have done for judo. So, I think it's definitely a positive evening. It is the first time that we are doing this, and now it must grow further.”