Can ‘Sprint Birds’ also handle 500 kilometres? (Part two of two)
In the spring of 2004 one of the greatest short distance champions pigeon sport has ever known passed away.
His name; Albert Marcelis.
While he was fighting for his life in hospital part of his birds were stolen.
It shows how ruthless some people are and… that he must have had super pigeons, since stealing average birds does not make sense.
And indeed, as for ‘sprint’ he was one of the best of Belgium, ‘THE best’ some claim. Albert always said he was scared to race his birds further than 300 kilometres, as he thought this was too far for his birds.
When he got older, in the late 90-ies, his neighbour Eric Berckmoes (a teenager then) took care of his birds and when Marcelis asked what he owed him for all the work the youngster reacted ‘no money, you can make me real happy with birds’.
So birds from Marcelis the young man got.
Berckmoes is not only young, he is also ambitious. He thought short distance no fun;
his dream was to compete the big shots in the Antwerp area at Middle and Long Distance.
Initially he was laughed at by the champions.
‘Compete us at Middle Distance with Marcelis birds? He must have been joking.’
But they did not laugh for long.
At the change of the century young Eric won one championship after the other at Middle and even Long Distance and he won National Bourges.
It stands to reason that Marcelis was both surprised and delighted.
He could never have dreamt about his birds winning from 500 kilometres though it must be said there was some other blood in them, since Eric believes in crossing like all champions.
But most birds that were winning for Berckmoes had ‘Marcelisblood’ for 75 percent at least.
Then there was Marcel Borgmans from Turnhout (not to be mixed up with Borgmans from Reusel with his Klak birds).
He raced in ‘Noyon Combine Turnhout’ that was the biggest in Belgium at the time.
As the name says this Combine only organised races from Noyon (240 kilometres). It was in this combine that the best pigeon I have ever known, ‘Olieman’ from Jos v d Veken, won one first prize after the other.
‘Olieman’ was born in the same year as ‘019’ of Janssen brothers who lived only 6 kilometres from Van der Veken but raced in another Combine (Arendonk).
The whole world knows ‘019’ was a multiple first prizewinner, but what very few know is that ‘Olieman’ was better.
On many Sundays both ‘Olieman’ and ‘019’ won 1st prize from the same race (Noyon) but ‘Olieman’s speed was always higher than that of ‘019’.
So if both birds would have been entered in the same competition (combine) Janssens’ ‘019’ would have won many… 2nd prizes.
Few people know about this since van der Veken hated propaganda whereas the Janssens were not only good fanciers but also good businessmen, especially Louis.
‘Fieneke’ from Vervoort, the bird that was auctioned for the highest price ever for a middle distance bird in 2003 was a descendant of ‘Olieman’.
Let’s go back to Marcel Borgmans.
In the 80-ies he was so outstanding with his Van Loonbirds that he searched for a new challenge, which was compete Hofkens and van Loon at Middle Distance in the ‘Lier Combine’.
The first few years he performed fantastic but gradually his results got worse till he got sick of losing and auctioned all his birds.
‘He had finished them by forcing them to fly a distance they could not handle’ it was said and written.
I do not know if this is true but what I do know is that a guy in Flanders bought birds from Borgmans that made him a great champion at Middle and Long distance.
Maurice Cassaert from Nechin, the one and only.
But again, like Berckmoes and so many others, he had crossed the birds he bought.
And like other champions Cassaert does not understand why foreigners prefer inbreds.
Because, here we go again, these are good for business, to win you need to cross.
Soontjens from Wommelgem not to be mixed up with Dutch Zoontjens from Riel is a controversial name.
He also raced from Noyon only and was at the top of his fame in the 80-ies when William Geerts stunned a whole nation by his sensational results at Middle Distance in ‘Union Antwerp’.
To prepare his birds for the longer distances Geerts had to race Noyon two times in the same combine where Soontjens raced.
Geerts often said how he hated those Noyon races because the Soontjensbirds destroyed him, his birds and his reputation.
Fortunately he could escape to another combine to race Middle Distance (Union Antwerp) after two races where he was spared by his tormentor Soontjens who raced Noyon only.
I myself was so impressed by Soontjens’ results then that I went there to buy birds. But I returned home without pigeons since I did not like them; I found them too big. It was one of many mistakes I ever made.
Later on Pros Roosen and Herbots bought numerous Soontjensbirds and one of the best birds Roosen ever had (his ‘Computer’) was a descendant of the ‘Tom-dynasty’ from Soontjens.
Roosen however found that 400 kilometres was about the limit the Soontjensbird could handle but not one week after the other.
It seemed as if they needed a break after such a race.
400 Kilometres is not long distance indeed but winning from that distance is good enough for me, that’s why I talked about ‘a big mistake’.
Later on many Soontjenspigeons were transferred to England and Taiwan and there they did what they did for Soontjens: win but… seldom at long distance. For those who are ‘pedigree-crazy’ and wonder where Soontjens got his birds I can say ‘at the same places as so many others’.
That means from un-known names.
The names I mentioned are kind of out-dated but Belgian Gust is not.
He is a superman at short distance and races in the same combine as his friends Leo and Charel who are his biggest opponents.
Once club mates teased him for racing no further till he got sick of it and entered one bird, and one bird only, for Bourges (about 500 kilometres).
He won all the money there was to be won and from then on his mates kept their mouths shut about ‘short distance birds’.
Though Gust is not that famous I bought his birds since I do not care about names. Super pigeons is what I want and this time I did not make mistake.
One of his birds was to be the mother of a hen that won from 70 kilometres to 400! Since so many are successful at Middle Distance with birds that descend from a so-called short distance family some say ‘a good sprint bird can also handle further distances, it is just a matter of preparing and conditioning’.
Others however don’t agree.
Who is right and who is wrong?
Like mostly ‘both are right and both are wrong’.
Many short distance racers are not aware of the fact that their birds can perform at Middle Distance as well provided they have soft feathers, flexible flights and not much bodyweight.
‘Much body weight’ (I mean big birds) may not be a problem at short distance but when a bird has to fly longer it is a negative factor.
There ARE good sprint birds that are NOT fit for the longer distances. Such birds are heavy and big and do NOT have flexible flights.
How important flexible flights are can be seen when a bird has flown for many hours when the last flights are bent. If they are stiff they cannot bend and flying will fatigue the bird after some hours.
I think Grondelaers was right: You should import smart birds which means good birds at short distance.
Such birds have ‘to decide’ directly after the release which direction to choose and it has to make it home in one straight line. If it is, say for argument’s sake, just one kilometre off course it will not win a prize.
This is different from longer distances. Then birds have a chance to make up for the mistake they made and can correct their course and still win a prize.
Once you have got those smart birds it is mainly a matter of training, conditioning and the right preparation to be successful at the greater distances.
‘A bird is born smart or not, you cannot change that’ some say.
They are right but flying longer distances is something you can teach birds.
In conclusion I want to tell you about this sportsman from the Emirates. He had heard about the results of Gust I mentioned before, he wanted his birds but first he would like to know what distances he races.
‘130 Kilometres only’ I told him.
‘Sorry’ he reacted, ‘these are not the birds I would want’.
Later on he found on the internet how good these birds were for me at Middle Distance (again crossed !), he changed his mind and ordered birds from Gust.
But now he was too late, Gust was sold out since I am not the only one who prefers ‘sprint birds’.
Should we all go after Gusts birds now?
Of course not. There are many men like him. It is the art of a champion to find them.