Knokke-Heist is a mundane seaside resort along the Belgian coast, known for its natural reserve Het Zwin, located along the border with The Netherlands. Fans of sunny beaches and the sea will enjoy their stay here, especially during the holidays. Knokke-Heist has several lounge bars, as well as trendy restaurants that appeal to the taste buds. Art lovers can visit the many art galleries in this city, while the Lippenslaan is a well known shopping street. The Het Zoute residence is often referred to as "Le Petit Monaco", as it includes many luxurious houses and apartments, expensive cars and of course the Royal Zoute Golf Club.
The rock and pop music festival Kneistival and the international firework show are well known events that attract many visitors to Knokke-Heist every year.
Most of the visitors in Knokke-Heist are probably unaware of the fact that a few national top class lofts are housed in this town as well, including most notably the Norman family. When taking the Natiënlaan towards the coast you can see the luxurious pigeon lofts on your left - this is the home of the impressive pigeon family of Nicolas and Filip Norman.
Four generations of top fanciers
Filip and Nicolas are the fourth generation of fanciers within the Norman family, a family that has contributed to the international reputation of pigeon racing in Belgium. Filip's grandfather started keeping pigeons in 1902 until his son Norbert Norman took over the loft in 1945. Norbert then started a combination with his son Filip in 1984, and they started working together with their current caretaker Gilbert Van Parijs as well. Filip's son Nicolas joined the team in 2010.
With the help of his father Filip and caretaker Gilbert, Nicolas is now trying to maintain this loft's position as a top level breed, and if possible to further step up his game. This is quite a challenge, especially when you take into account the location of his loft for the national races. Being one of the country's most renowned race organisers for national races (he is responsible for the Belgian Entente), Filip knows a few things about pigeon races.
It is difficult to win prizes against the wind and against the leading group of pigeons, especially in the national races of the longer middle distance. There is often a strong sea breeze in this area, making it particularly difficult for the Norman pigeons to book national results. They have a slightly better chance in races with the wind blowing to the east. And yet, the Norman loft houses an impressive collection of successful racing pigeons that have won several national top results, despite the difficult conditions! This means his pigeons are from a different level; they are exceptionally strong.
Filip knows this is not the best area to be in but he does not look for excuses. He now knows that he has to be really strict when it comes to selecting pigeons. He knows he has to set a high bar in order to become successful in the national races.
Filip puts it this way: if you can win the first prize, then you're always in a good region. At least, that is what your opponents will tell you. He heard many champions say they were thinking of moving to the coast as well. None of them have kept their word, except perhaps for a second residence.
Norman stands for quality
Norman pigeons are especially tough to beat over longer distances, as you can tell from the results, especially those of Olympiad Pigeon Gazpacho. The fanciers from Knokke-Heist had a great team of yearlings as well this year, having won the title of 4th Nat. Champion Long Distance Yearlings KBDB. This sounds promising for the future. The Norman pigeon family also finished in 11th place in the General Championship KBDB 2014.
Nicolas and Filip continue to focus on top quality, which is the result of strict selection. The Norman team has never been stronger at the start of the season than in 2015, with a racing team that was carefully put together. The team for 2015 consists of only 28 old birds, which means quite a few pigeons were dropped from the team in the end of 2014. The other pigeons in the team are all yearlings; 60 cocks, and a group of hens that will also be basketed for Limoges and Brive.
Filip knows that working with top quality bloodlines is always the best approach. His strategy is to create a pigeon breed based around top class pigeons and ace pigeons in particular. He explains why:
"I strongly believe in the idea of breeding pigeons from Ace Pigeon x Ace Pigeon, which is why Magic Florian and Gazpacho were quickly transferred to the breeding loft after their achievements as racing birds. Gilbert does not always agree because he really enjoys racing pigeons, and so he wants to have our best pigeons in his team. I understand that but we have already lost a few invaluable pigeons that way. I do not want to make the same mistake again. I prefer using our best pigeons in the breeding loft, to provide a basis for the future. I think our results show that this is the best approach."
Olympic Gazpacho and Magic Florian, the team's new workhorses
These two supercracks are the hope for the future. The fanciers are hoping that they will follow in the footsteps of stock pigeon Zorro. In fact, Filip thinks Magic Florian might well exceed the achievements of his grandfather Zorro. He has been in the breeding loft since 2013, and he immediately managed to breed five great youngsters that won a national top 334 prize as yearlings in 2014 (they won a 20-23-220-270-334 Nat. Tulle against 5,731 yearlings). This is truly outstanding. Besides, two of his direct sons could have become 2nd and 3rd Prov. Ace Pigeon Long Distance KBDB if their results had been submitted. A grandchild of Florian has become Olympiad Pigeon Cat. All round young birds in Budapest; this pigeon has won three first prizes (against 3,495 p., 2,794 p. and 2,677 p.), and has won several more first prizes against more than 5,000 pigeons! This explains why he is expected to play a crucial role in the future.
Talented pigeons tend to come to the surface rather quickly. Magic Florian was ringed only when he was eventually basketed for the closing race from Gueret 2010, where he already won a 3rd prize in the club against 188 p., along with a 283rd against 13,885 young birds. It was the start of a great career:
-Magic Florian BE10-3113328
1st Prov. Ace Pigeon Long Distance KBDB West Fl. 2012 1st Intprov Poitiers 1,827 p. 1st Prov Limoges 2,594 p. 1st Intprov Limoges 1,489 p. 4th Nat Souillac 7,760 p. Won a total of 7 first prizes! Took part in 20 races and won 15 x top 13, 12 x top 10 and 10 x top 5 He is the sire of 20-23-220-270-334th nat. Tulle 5,731 p. in 2014 Grandfather of Olympiad Pigeon All Round Young Birds 2015 in Budapest
His dam is a daughter of Zorro x Kristine, which makes her a Sister of Abraham, which won the Sun City One Million Dollar Race in South Africa. His father is a son National II of Jos Thoné (from 1st Nat. Limoges 12,743 p. National II x Daughter Narbonne, from 1st Nat. Narbonne 6,423 p.). Click here for the full pedigree.
The other leading name in the 2014 racing team was Gazpacho. He was third Olympiad Pigeon Marathon 2015, and he represented our country in the Budapest Olympiad. He is also based on the noble bloodlines of stock sire Zorro, being a son of Zorro's granddaughter.
Olympiad Pigeon Marathon 2015 in Budapest 3rd Best Long distance Pigeon of Belgium over 5 national races in 2013 (PIPA ranking) 14th Nat Montauban 5,935 p. in 2014 57th Nat Souillac 5,282 p. in 2013 84th Nat Libourne 6,684 p. in 2013 91st N.Zone Cahors 2,801 p. in 2013 (614th Nat 8,570 p.) 599th Nat Limoges 7,221 p. in 2014 997th Nat Limoges 14,271 p. in 2013
One of the super class hens that can be paired with both these pigeons is Glamour. She won a 2nd provincial ace pigeon title herself, as well as five first prizes! This makes her a likely candidate for an Ace Pigeon x Ace Pigeon pairing, Norman's number one combination.
2nd Prov. Ace Pigeon Middle Distance and Long Distance KBDB in 2012 1st Intprov Bourges 1,028 p. in 2011 12th Nat Bourges 31,719 p. in 2011 17th Nat Argenton 7,046 p. in 2012 25th Nat Tulle 10,251 p. in 2012 89th Nat Chateauroux 15,902 p. in 2012 9th Prov Bourges 1,258 p. in 2012 83rd Prov Tours 4,165 p. in 2012 5 x 1st prizes!
An amazing and unprecedented palmares!
It would be hard to find a title or championship prize that is lacking on the palmares of the Norman family. We briefly summarize this loft's most important highlights:
-13 national first prizes
-winner Gouden Vleugel for the BBC (Barcelona Club Bruges)
-winner of Primus Inter Pares for the BBC
-winner of Euro Diamond
-winner of the One Million Dollar race in Sun City South Africa 2008
-1st National champion and National Ace Pigeon of Belgium
We cannot think of any Belgian fancier with a similar palmares. How many Belgian lofts have managed to win both the Golden Wing and the Euro Diamond title? How many fanciers have won the three titles Golden Wing, Euro Diamond, and Primus Inter Pares? We can think of only one name: the Norman pigeon family! This is the only loft in Belgium to have won each of these titles – quite exceptional. The palmares of the Norman family includes all prestigious championship titles, which is something to be proud of. They are really happy with their achievements but by no means arrogant.
They have been working hard to make it to the top, and they continue to work hard to maintain their position as a top level loft and to get even stronger. The fanciers from Knokke-Heist were not particularly happy with the provincial races of the longer middle distance being replaced with the national races, and the changes made to the different zones. "It look as if these changes were aimed against us, but we are not planning to throw in the towel", says Filip. "Our team and our pigeons will put in a great effort, we will fight back and try to achieve great results nonetheless." In just a few weeks' time they will be ready to focus on the national long distance competition.