Belgium: rope skipping paradise of Europe

In our never-ending search for lesser-known sports, DtG came across the results at the World Rope Skipping Championships in Colorado last summer. Many medals were won by jumpers with the country code BEL behind their name; Belgium. It turns out: the European country – at least the Flemish part – is one of the leading countries in rope skipping. Time to discover the sport at the European Show Contest in Zeist, the Netherlands.

The Belgian rope skipping formation Space performing at the European Show Contest

The skipping ropes hit the floor on the stage of the Figi theater. The colored beads surrounding the rope descend at full speed, the sound sometimes exceeding the music. On stage the members of the rope skipping teams performing their exercise: a combination of jumping techniques, tricks and choreography. Belgium is represented by five teams at this unofficial European Championship. The team Let’s get fit (again) shares the gold medal with the Dutch team Next Level.

There are more than forty rope skipping clubs in Flanders, a lot more than in many other countries. There are 5,000 athletes affiliated with the Gymnastics Federation. “To participate in these types of international competitions, there are internal selection competitions,” says Kato van Overbeecke, who is a member of the Sportac 86 club in Deinze and forms the Pirates jumping team with five other athletes. The opposition and competition in Belgium is high, which only makes the level better. At European level, Flemish jumpers stand out, and they also often win prizes at the World Championships. “We all started rope skipping at the age of 6 or 7 and now train three times a week, about nine hours in total.” The sport is part of the school system in Flanders. Preschoolers are already exposed to it because it is good for mobility and physique. And they also get used to the idea that you can do it as a real sport.

The fun of the sport for the women is the variety and the many skills you need. “Speed, acrobatics, gymnastics, coordination, strength,” the 23-year-old Justien Vercamer sums up. “But you don’t necessarily have to be all-round and be able to do everything. There are individual disciplines, there is speed rope skipping and there are these show competitions.” A team of up to six athletes performs an exercise that is judged by a jury.

Two rope skippers of the Belgian team Pirates


Yet, you can’t say rope skipping is a popular sport in Flanders. “It’s not football or volleyball,” said Bo van Renthegem. “We often have to explain that rope skipping is not just an activity on the playground. When we show a video with our exercises and people see the somersaults and tricks we do, it becomes clear and people are watching with their mouths open.”

The fact that the popularity of rope skipping is not great is also evident from the lack of financial appreciation. The jumpers have to pay for everything themselves, which is why some of them did not go to the World Championships in Colorado last summer. “That easily cost three to four thousand euros per person. That just doesn’t work for everyone. To go to international competitions, we often raise money ourselves by selling sweets or organizing a food festival. Rope skipping is great fun, but sadly we are not professionals.”