Jolien Boumkwo, a champion in the shot put and hammer throw for Belgium, demonstrated her sense of teamwork during the European Championships in Poland when she volunteered to run the 100-meter hurdles and prevent her team from being disqualified.
Boumkwo smiled broadly as she cautiously overcame every hurdle on Saturday. The 29-year-old finished the race in 32.81 seconds without clearing any hurdles, 19 seconds later than Spanish sprinter Teresa Errandonea, who had won.
When competitors Anne Zagre and Hanne Claes were unable to compete owing to injury, Boumkwo stepped in to run the second heat of the hurdles competition. If no Belgian athlete competed in the race, the country would have been disqualified. Instead, Boumkwo’s run earned Belgium two points in the First Division standings.
“We sometimes do hurdles in training, so I know how to do it,” she said after the race. “I thought it was a special experience, because much more than with the shot put I had the feeling that everyone was looking at me.
“I try not to take myself too seriously as an athlete. The past has taught me that that will only make you cramp. If my two points ensure that we stay in the top division, this will certainly have been worth it.”
As she scored two points for the team, she received encouragement from the fans and congratulations from her rivals.
Boumkwo’s efforts were ultimately in futile as Belgium, Turkey, and Norway were all demoted to Division 1 after placing 14th out of 16 teams in the competition. Italy triumphed in the competition, beating both Germany and Poland.