SAITAMA, Japan, Aug 3 (Reuters) – Kim Mestdagh caught an errant blow to the throat and collapsed to the court, gasping for breath on Monday within the last preliminary match of Belgium’s debut in women’s basketball at the Olympics. Courtside at the Saitama Super Arena, north of Tokyo was her head coach Philip Mestdagh, who is additionally her father. And on the bench was her sister and teammate, Hanne.
Kim, 31, rose from the court on her own power and stayed courtside until the ultimate whistle as Belgium fell to China 62-74. At a post-match news conference, Coach Mestdagh downplayed the familial connection and concerns over Kim’s collision. “At home, alright, I’m the dad, but up here, they’re just players just like the other players,” Coach Mestdagh. The Belgian Cats, as they’re known, have parlayed their first Olympic appearance into an opportunity for medals, advancing to the knockout phase of the competition.
They finished 2-1 within the preliminaries, leaning heavily on power forward Emma Meesseman, who led all other players within the women’s division in scoring and was second in rebounds, and face hosts Japan in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Coach Mestdagh alongside Kim and Hanne was a part of a Belgian team that took bronze within the 2017 European Women Basketball Championship and won an Olympic berth at the 2019 event. The sisters also played together at Colorado State University and have a brother Robin who plays semi-pro ball. “Basketball is basically running our family,” Hanne, 28, said, highlighting the support she gets from her sister. “She helps me out with stuff, she’s ready to ask me, to teach me sometimes too as a teammate. So it’s extremely nice to be ready to do that and share this experience.”