Just a normal person from Ypres, Belgium
“You don’t have to act like certain person, or come from a certain place to reach your dreams”.
Oh, that's Emma...
The first time I got a small showcase of Emma’s raw talent, she wasn’t even playing for the first team of Ypres. She was shooting hoops during the half time of the first division game Blue Cats Ieper - DBC Houthalen.
I went over to coach Mestdagh (now head coach of the infamous Belgian National team) and asked her why she wasn’t playing because… well you can tell if somebody has the god-given talent Emma has unless you’re blind or have never seen a basketball game in your life. He responded more confident than ever. “Oh that’s Emma, you’ll hear about her in a couple of years”
Little did I know, that the daughter of former Belgian International Sonja Tankrey, less then a year after that game, was already tearing down the Belgian First Division. Eventually bringing home a title for the “small team” from Ypres.
After a 66-61 win in a packed venue in Antwerp, every basketball lover in Belgium knew something special blossomed from that gym in Ypres.
Now, after all the accolades: 4x time EuroLeague Champion, WNBA Champion & Finals MVP, Best rebounder and 2nd best scorer at the World Cup in 2018, Belgian Player of the Year, Belgian Female Athlete of the year (the first one to do so in a team sport), WNBA All star, 6x Russian League Champion, Fiba Under 18 MVP,… The list goes on and on - Wether she’s with friends and family, or traveling the world as a championship winner, Emma stays exactly who she is - just Emma.
FLY HIGH - STAY ROOTED
“I Think it’s very important to always remember where I’m from. Because me being raised in Ypres always made sure I was down to earth. I stayed the same Emma, no matter what happened” - says Emma, when asked how important her hometown is for her..
"The people that live here know me as the real me, not as Emma playing in Russia, Emma playing in America or Emma the MVP. For them, I’m just Emma"
“I see people changing after achieving things, not even like the big things, but when they think they achieve something and they act differently.. I would hate that” Emma told us. For her it’s all about staying true to yourself and being who you are, a relatable sentiment from a secret homebody who travels the world.
Well Emma… you might be a daughter, sister, friend. But to us and hundreds and thousands other Belgians, you are the best thing that happened to (Women’s) basketball.
Emma has shown that for changing the game, you don’t have to change yourself.
And that using your talent in a humble and hard working way may lead to great things.
She has made us all fall in love over and over again with the game of basketball, every time she stepped on the floor and left it all out there.
From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you for being you - thank you for being “Just Emma”!