On top of the world at championships
Lacrosse: Okotokian reflects on whirlwind experience with Team Belgium
Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 06:00 am
So much for first-time jitters.
Okotokian Tibor Van den Wildenbergh helped Team Belgium make a successful debut at the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Commerce City, Colorado with a 27th place finish amongst the 38 participating nations.
“It was kind of surreal, actually,” said Van den Wildenbergh, a Foothills Composite graduate. “I learned a lot and helped the team learn a lot as well, not just myself, we had a couple of Americans guys and we helped them grow their game.
“They all want us to come back over and keep teaching. It’s really awesome being able to grow the community a little more.”
Making its debut on the world stage, Belgium saved its best for last in the Rockies.
Team Belgium edged Austria 7-6 in the 27th place game on Friday, avenging an earlier loss to the central-European nation. Van den Wildenbergh had one goal and three assists en route to producing nine goals and 13 points in six tournament games.
“The Austria game, not just for me, but for the team as well. It was the best game we played all tournament, the whole team came together,” said Van den Wildenbergh, an Okotoks minor lacrosse product and member of the Jr. B Marauders. “They beat us 14-1 in pool-play so it was awesome to be able to beat them in the end when it really counted.”
Pooled in a tough Red Division alongside Germany, Hong Kong and Austria, the Belgians took it on the chin through the first three contests in Colorado highlighted by a 14-1 thrashing at the hands of Austria to close pool play.
“We knew we had a tough pool, all the teams had already been playing in the world tournament,” he said. “Because we ended up fourth we ended up playing some weaker teams and that was kind of a slump buster.”
Van den Wildenbergh, a field lacrosse student-athlete at Simon Fraser University, was a motivated individual in producing a hat-trick in Belgium’s 18-4 romp over Costa Rica.
That’s what a two-hand slash from an opponent can do to you.
“I got really mad in that game because I injured my elbow pretty seriously,” said Van den Wildenbergh, who sustained soft tissue damage to his elbow. “I went back out and just really wanted to score a couple goals. I ended up missing the next two games because of it.”
On the mend, he watched his teammates produce a 10-4 triumph over Uganda and 8-4 victory over Russia. Van den Wildenbergh got back in the lineup for Belgium’s 6-3 loss to Slovakia, contributed on every goal in a three-point effort, setting the stage for the 27th place showdown with Austria. All told, Belgium finished 4-4 in Colorado.
“A highlight from the tournament was all the trading stations that were set up,” he added. “On the last day, everyone was trading their gear and shirts for other teams’ stuff, which really shows how much of a tight knit community lacrosse is.”
Van den Wildenbergh wasn’t alone for the amazing week on the field. He shared the week with his girlfriend, parents, and brother in the stands as well as travelling friends from Belgium.
“It’s nice having your own personal cheering crowd,” he said.
“We weren’t there by ourselves which made it a lot nicer, especially playing a team like Uganda where everybody else is cheering for them, it’s nice to have a few people in the crowd cheering for you.”
Van den Wildenbergh got to do some cheering of his own.
With his tournament sewn up on July 18, Van den Wildenbergh took in Canada’s upset 8-5 win over the heavily-favoured Americans in the gold-medal game to cap off a sublime experience in the Centennial State.
“The atmosphere was crazy,” he said. “There was a bunch of Canadian fans there and there is huge rivalry. Whenever they tried to start chanting anything they would get drowned out by the ‘U.S.A.’ chants. The game and watching those guys play was unreal.”
Going forward, the 20-year-old looks to stick with Team Belgium as it prepares for the European championships in two years time with an eye on the 2018 worlds in Manchester, England.
“They want me to come back, thank God,” he said with a laugh.
Raider finishes sixth
Jesse Fehr, current Okotoks Jr. A Raiders assistant coach and alumnus from the team’s early days in Calgary, aided Scotland to its best ever finish at the FIL World Championships.
Scotland earned a sixth-place finish, losing out to England 15-13 in the fifth-place contest, the country’s best showing in five tournament appearances.
Fehr, a member of the National Lacrosse League’s Philadelphia Wings, produced eight goals and 13 assists in eight games from the midfield position.
By virtue of its defeat over Japan and finishing sixth Scotland moves into the Blue Division, the top-tier, alongside the likes of Canada, Iroquois and the United States at the 2018 World Championships.
Fellow Raiders alumni Jonathan Munk suited up for the Czech Republic while Rob Griffith played for Team Finland. Both Munk and Griffith played for the Calgary Raiders prior to the organization moving to Okotoks in 2008.
For more information go to worldlacrosse2014.com