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Ward Lemmelijn pays tuition fee in qualifying race Tokyo 2021: yellow card in series, eliminated for Olympic ticket in resits

Not an unlikely stunt for Lemmelijn: in his first major international experience, he will not be able to compete for an Olympic ticket on Wednesday. The day started off in a minor key for Lemmelijn: was it a beginner’s mistake or had he lost track of time due to nerves? The fact is that in the heats where he was classified in the second heat he finished just a little too late at the start. The boat points must be aligned no later than two minutes before the start signal, but Lemmelijn was not ready when that time limit was called. Gwenda Stevens, president of the Belgian rowing federation, was present in Varese as an international jury member and was heartfelt that she had to punish Lemmelijn: “I saw it coming that he was not in the suit with the other rowers before the start . I thought: “You’re not going to do this to me, Ward?” But he was 27 seconds late, then I can’t help but give a yellow card. ” That in itself is not so bad, unless Lemmelijn would cause a false start. “Then he is irrevocably out,” said Stevens.

During the races themselves it turned out that Lemmelijn still has to pay tuition fees. In his heat he finished fifth and last this morning with 7: 17.26 well behind the Greek series winner Stefanos Ntouskas, who completed the 2,000 meters in 6: 52.84. Lemmelijn clocked the thirteenth time of fifteen participants. In the second chances in the afternoon, he could still make it to the semi-finals if he finished in the first three. But the 23-year-old Flemish-Brabanter finished fifth without a chance, with his time of 7: 15.33 more than five seconds behind the number three.

But to enforce an Olympic ticket for Tokyo 2021 now, that would almost be a miracle for Lemmelijn. Lemmelijn was tried and tested in indoor rowing, where he made it to world champion. He has enormous physical qualities that are necessary in rowing, but has only been training professionally for six months with a good boat on water and still has to train a lot technically. At the beginning of March he surprisingly won the national trials outdoors and the Belgian rowing federation gave him the chance for the European Olympic qualifying tournament on the basis of that performance. In Varese, it turned out that Lemmelijn is still too green behind the ears compared to the competition that has been technically more skilled in water for years. Especially in the start he still has to make a lot of progress to fight with equal weapons. 

Lemmelijn still has time for that: his big goal is to aim for a medal at the Paris 2024 Games, and in fact he is already much ahead of schedule.

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Ward Lemmelijn.
Ward Lemmelijn. © Photo News

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