When we visited Etienne Meirlaen shortly after his restart in 2000 for a loft report, we instantly noticed that he was in possession of a loft filled to the brim with talent ready to blossom. We do not claim to be in possession of prophetic capabilities, but you could feel it in the air… you could sense that this was going to be the start of a legend in the making. This is a man to keep an eye on in the near future. From his vision and approach, it was clear that Etienne Meirlaen knew what side of the bread is buttered. He used talented pigeons and tested and mercilessly selected them based upon their accomplishments
He started his new beginning with a series of year 2000 young birds from the fancier Van Damme-Boddaert, the late Antione Van Hove… and a few birds from the own “old breed”, which were bought from sports friends, as well as pigeons from the late Sylvere Toye, Cor de Heijde and the brothers Desbuquois. Pigeons he had to pay a pretty penny for, but were not intended as breeding material, not at first at least. No, every single purchased pigeon first had to prove its merits on the races. That is how you learn the quality of your pigeons and are able to couple them to the best partner (read good x good or even better: super x super).
Only after the first breeding results were in from the races (the offsprings of these racing birds), were the first pigeons assigned to the definitive destination of the breeding loft! And that selection was merciless… we still vividly remember when Etienne in his early years basketted a group of yearlings for Narbonne en Perpignan (later St.Vincent) to see what his aspiring `extremely long distance` and `Barcelona pigeons` were made off. Anything that was unable to rank per 10 AND return home `fresh` - 2 times in a row no less - was shipped off to mother’s kitchen the very next day! Strict and merciless!
If you do the mental gymnastics you will realise that many of us (read: most of us) would quickly be unable to contend that season if we used a similar approach due to… having no pigeons left! It speaks to the merit of the whole of the Meirlaen-team that their hard and relentless approach has led to such top performances! It is easier said than done, just try to copy it!
National victories, national titles and a large collection of ace pigeons
When someone maintains such a ruthless selection method for several years… it should come as no surprise that what remains is a flying crew of pure talent which now sets the tone on the international “extremely long-distance races”. One of the first great triumphed was winning the ‘Gouden Vleugel’ in 2006. Having said that, the year before - in 2005 - Etienne had the Best Belgian Pigeon on the Extremely Long Distance, with Marthonlady (we shall discuss this wonderbird in more detail later), who had a smaller % than the 1st National Ace Pigeon Extremely Long Distance KBDB… however, she was not allowed to qualify for this as she was a `yearling`, and this Ace Pigeon title was exclusively for older pigeons. Congratulations if you can follow the logic there! However, do not fear…. It did not take too long for Etienne to take what he was owed, with interest! In the following years, Etienne won the 1st + 3rd Nat Ace Pigeon Extremely Long Distance KBDB 2008 (Cor and Ace hen) as well as the 1st Nat Ace Pigeon Extremely Long Distance KBDB 2009 (Perpignanlady, who also won the 1st Internat Perpignan hens 3.841 p.)!
Meanwhile the colony Meirlaen also won the 2nd Internat. Tarbes 12.537 p. With Starlight, the 3rd Primus inter Pares BBC in 2008, and finally the 1st Best Long Distance Belgian Pigeon over 5 National Races 2010 (PIPA-rankings) with ’t Fenomeen (offspring of the golden Marseillelijn)
The discovery of the golden stockbreeder Yelena
Since 2010 a new vein of potential has been found at the colony Meirlaen, one which allowed it to dominate the extremely long distance at the national level. Resulting from a joint breeding late 2006 with the top star of Raoul & Xavier Verstraete with the earlier named Marathonlady of Etienne Meirlaen, the golden stockbreeder ‘Yelena’ was born. Three of her sons - sometimes called the `3 musketeers` of Deurle - especially Montali (4. Nat Montauban 9.091 p. in 2011 + 12. Nat Montauban 6.654 p. in 2010) , Montauban (1st Best Montauban pigeon over 3 years with 1. Prov & 5. Nat Montauban 6.654 p. ’10, 10. Nat Montauban 6.822 p. ’12, and 73. Nat Montauban 9.091 p. ’11) and superstar Monar (alle born in 2008) showed what they were made off from the racing season of 2010. The last of the three brothers caused quite the commotion in 2011 by winning the 1. Internat Narbonne 12.605 pigeons. One did not have to wait long for a sequel, cause a year later Conar won the 1. Nat Cahors of 8.348 p. In 2021. This was the prelude to the era of the Yelena dynasty.
In 2014 there was another successful joint breeding, this time in cooperation with Batenburg-Vd Merwe, this immediately resulted in a 1st. Nat Ace Pigeon Extremely Long Distance KBDB (Diamond Anita, granddaughter of Monar). The same 2014 that gave us 1st Nat + 2nd Nat Pau (with Marco and Cor As). As well as another series of phenomenal winners and National Ace Pigeons had their first taste of the spotlight, of which we shall go into more detail in part 2 of this report. We can see how the signature of the golden stockbreeder becomes more and more obvious in the colony, especially with the descendents of the current number 1 of the quality rich Meirlaen breeding loft, ‘Superbreeder 214’ a direct son of Monar, and thus a grandson of Yelena.
Yet again dominant in 2021 – 4th Nat Champion Extremely Long Distance KBDB
By now everyone knows the journey of Etienne Meirlaen in his very first years, which resulted in a nearly impossible to count number of national titles and ace pigeons. Mega successes that allowed him to grow into a true `champion`, perhaps even our current `national number 1` as well as having the very best pigeons of Belgium when it comes to `long distance` and especially `extremely long distance`... and all the while doing this, performing at a world-class level and garnering international attention to himself.
Anyone who keeps a close eye on the national races has no other option than to come to the same conclusion that we did. The road that Etienne Meirlaen has followed these last 20 years deserves admiration and demands respect. All the proof you need of that are the results on the National and International races of the long-distance. year after year incredible results and it is not just the 1, 2 or top 3 best results of the season, as is often the case with many lofts in certain reports… but of ALL the international races! 2021 was no different. Have a look and convince yourself… cause here they are, the naked truth in numbers, the International races 2021 on the long-distance:
The phenomenal annual performances - adorned with lists of victories, even at the national and international level - have resulted in a mountain of National titles, titles and national ace pigeons KBDB, even multiple Olympic pigeons. With the results listed above, colony Meirlaen finished late 2021 as the 4th Nat Champion extremely long distance KBDB (provisional forecasting). Which makes another fine addition to the incredible honours list.
One who can put forth such results rightfully belongs in the gallery of the greats of the pigeon sport. Terms like `international ace` are most deserved. In part 2 we will look at the actual aces who made the dream happen, and continued the impressive winning streak