Belgium hires Olympian Wietse van Alten as new head coach

Wietse van Alten new Belgium head coach

Olympic bronze medallist Wietse van Alten will start as Belgium’s new Olympic coach on 1 April, it’s been announced.

The former Dutch and Italian elite recurve trainer will oversee a programme called ‘Belgium Yellow Arrows’, while working on building a programme for developing talented archers wanting to progress into the national team selection.

“Belgium has always had talented archers, both nowadays and in the past, but it has been difficult for them because they lacked a programme with sufficient financial and technical support,” said van Alten to World Archery.

“With the appearance of a technical director who wrote a great plan for a small group of talented archers and got the National Olympic Committee of Belgium (Comité Olympique et Interfédéral Belge) to support it, the first steps towards building a programme for the future was taken.”

“It is great to be part of this and help to build for the future.”

Van Alten, who finished third at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, has a good reputation as a high-level coach but had taken a three-year break from archery to work developing sport fishing in the south of the Netherlands.

Wietse van Alten as Netherlands coach at London 2012

The now-43-year-old started coaching at the top level with the Dutch team back in 2008, working with a talented group of young archers.

That group included Rick van der Ven, who finished fourth at the London 2012 Olympics, and many of the athletes that since formed the staple of one of Europe’s leading competitive nations.

In the lead-up to London, the Netherlands’ recurve men had won the European team title against the soon-to-become Olympic champions Italy – which is where van Alten would next work, becoming head coach a year later.

“The experiences I had in the Netherlands and in Italy have formed me and I hope to be a better coach than I have been before,” explained van Alten.

“When I started in the Netherlands, I wanted to go too fast and demanded too much of the young athletes. The moment the archers ‘protested’ was an eye opener for me and I realised that I needed to change my way of working.”

Wietse’s departure from the Italian squad in 2019 brought him closer to home and closer to family. This next move keeps him geographically close to his Dutch roots – but puts the well-regarded trainer back on the international scene.

Wietse van Alten when coaching Italy

In his new role, van Alten will primarily be based at the main Olympic training centre in Herentals. He cannot wait to get started.

“It is great to help archers and I especially enjoy helping young archers, teaching them not only the technical, mental and physical parts of archery, but showing them how to be an athlete which, is just as important,” he said.

“My first objective now is to get to know the archers and the people around the programme. Jarno de Smedt has already attended the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and is eager to take a place for Paris and set some good international results. But we should not forget the many high-level compound archers Belgium has brought forward who have had much success.”

Upcoming major events on Belgium’s doorstep, like the third stage of this year’s Hyundai Archery World Cup in Paris and the European Championships in Munich, provide an opportunity to assess athletes in competition, said Wietse.

“I will use this period to see and help my archers when needed,” he explained. “This year we have a very compact programme, so we have a great amount of time to prepare for 2023, an important year.”

The qualification period for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games is expected to start at next summer’s world championships.

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