| Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 06:00 am
The marquee international event in field lacrosse comes with an Okotoks-flavoured twist.
Okotoks minor lacrosse product Tibor Van den Wildenbergh won't be flying Canada's flag, instead playing for his birth nation of Belgium as it makes its debut on the biggest stage in the sport at the World Lacrosse Championships in the Mile High City.
“We want to be able to compete with all the other first year nations, that will be the first step,” said Van den Wildenbergh, a 2012 graduate of Foothills Composite. “We just scrimmaged France and won 14-5, which is huge.
“We're coming in pretty strong. I'm excited to play some of the top teams.”
He won't have to wait long for such a measuring stick.
Pooled in the Red Division based on world rankings, Belgium opens the World Lacrosse Championship, held in Denver in early July, against geographic rivals Germany followed by contests versus Hong Kong and Austria.
Each of the record 38 teams play a minimum of seven games over the 10-day period.
Since its inception in 1967, the Lacrosse World Championships have run every four years and been dominated by North American teams. The United States, boasting a strong university field lacrosse infrastructure in the NCAA, has won the event nine times with Canada owning two titles, most recently in 2006.
The naturalized Belgian and former resident of the port city of Antwerp moved to the foothills at the age of seven. He called it an honour to be on Belgium's first team to compete at worlds and to assist in making the sport more accessible to non-traditional international markets.
“I'm really excited. I hope I get to help grow the sport, not only here but also in Belgium,” said Van den Wildenbergh, also a second-year member of the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Clansmen field lacrosse team. “I plan on going back after worlds and helping them with coaching and to keep growing it.”
The Okotoks minor lacrosse product is coming off a Pacific Northwest Collegiate Lacrosse League (PNCLL) Division title with the Clansmen who compete with U.S. schools in the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association.
The sophomore criminology student at SFU is fundraising to offset the expenses to travel and compete with Team Belgium in Denver.
“It's mostly the travel of getting to and from Denver and also the team fees because Belgium is a new team on the world stage and we don't have any major sponsors,” he said. “The players are paying for all the costs involved.”
To help contribute to Tibor's expenses go to www.GoFundME.com/Tibor