Nele Gilis: 'It's a dream to win the European Team Championships'

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Nele Gilis: 'It's a dream to win the European Team Championships'

World no.4 Nele Gilis says it would be "a dream" for Belgium to make history in Zurich and win the ESF European Team Championship women's title for the first time.

Belgium came so close to breaking England's domination of the event last year in Helsinki but defeat for Nele's sister Tinne against Jasmine Hutton in the final proved to be crucial as England won the trophy for the 42nd time.

England have only failed to win the women's European team Championship twice in 44 attempts (in 2019 when they were beaten by France and in 2010 by the Netherlands). Gilis is certain that Belgium will become the fourth different nation on the roll of honour soon.

The 28-year-old told us: "We have a very strong team and I have a very strong belief that we will win - if it's not this year then it will eventually come one year, I'm sure of it. Obviously England is no.1 seed so they are very strong but on a good day for us, we can definitely do it.

"It's a dream to win the European Team Championships for Belgium. It's always very special to play for your country and for such a small country to win the European Championships would be massive. Hopefully we can inspire some younger generations to pick up a racket and play the sport."

Nele and Tinne will be joined in the Belgium squad at the 2024 Championships in Zurich from 1-4 May by Marie Van Riet and 18-year-old Chloé Crabbé, who has finished on the podium at the Belgian, Czech and French Junior Open this season.

This year, the Belgians are seeded second and Nele clearly hopes to go one better than their runner-up finish in 2023 - although she has no regrets about last year's narrow defeat in the final.

"Honestly, I wasn't frustrated at all after the final," she said. "I was proud personally for winning my match, but I was disappointed for Tinne because she felt like she let the team down. 

"She definitely didn't - the fact that she's standing there playing in the final of the European Team Championships for Belgium, in my view, was a massive achievement already. I really do believe that we are going to get this title one year - hopefully next week!

"It's very special because we come from such a small country and small city that basically has no squash. We both had to move away from our country and our family which is difficult but it's the sacrifice we had to make. My mum is very proud of us. Unfortunately we lost our dad 12 years ago and doing him proud is another reason why we do what we do.

"My dad would drive us all around Europe for tournaments and support us. I remember one year at the Czech Junior Open I turned up at breakfast and he was sitting there. He had driven all night and I wasn't expecting it. It is always a motivation for me and Tinne to do him proud."

Follow live streaming of the ESF European Team Championships from 1-4 May on our YouTube channel and Eurovision Sport, plus groups, schedule and results here

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