From The Chair - “Etienne Meirlaen’s Yelena, A true Leading Lady of international pigeon sport”
Well as I’m sitting here on March 17th, I better start by wishing all my fancier friends and readers in Ireland Happy St Patricks Day or “Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona duit" however you are celebrating have a great one, and please God we can get together for a glass or two of the “black stuff” sometime soon. I do not care what any man says the Guinness in Ireland is a world apart from what we have in the UK, I had better not write or think about that too much now otherwise I shall be pining for a pint which I have given up for Lent, much to the amusement of my friend’s, all of which is taken in good fun. Days like today I cannot help but think of my late Godmother Teresa and her husband, who I always referred to as Uncle Tom God, Bless them both, I hope they are both up there, enjoying a great St Patrick’s day with the man himself!
Is it me or do we seem to be getting all four seasons in one day? Let us hope we get some better weather before training and racing is officially allowed to start which makes me wonder how those who practice winter breeding manage with their youngsters when its grey dull and blowing the proverbial hooley outside? Is not my cup of tea as my joints are stiff enough thank you very much without the cold setting in, which leaves me to ask the question what good does this do a young bird whose muscles are still developing? Especially when we take into consideration studies conducted for professional athletes have found out that thanks to the effects of colder temperatures, muscles are forced to work much harder to complete the same tasks they complete easily in milder weather. This causes more damage to the muscle tissue and can result in increased soreness. I only mention this as food for thought, but the beauty of our hobby is that each man is master of his own fate and each can do as he pleases. Having an inquisitive mind is both a blessing and a curse particularly when writing about pigeons because there is such a wide range of topics you can cover and others which you give a wide birth as you do not always have sufficient facts. I never have nor shall I ever claim to be an expert, because to quote Franklin D. Roosevelt “There are as many opinions as there are experts”. The same too for racing, every fancier has their own view and as for everything else common sense should prevail, trouble is it is not always that common but that is a part of the process and weakness of being human and so whichever way works for us is “the best way.”
You often hear the question, what makes a champion fancier successful? Like all serious fanciers I like to look at how champions do things because there is always learning to be done and if you want to reach the top then ask someone who is there already, sounds simple enough right? But here’s the key thing about most of the Champions that I have read about or been lucky enough to meet they are still reaching for bigger and better things. As most of us consider Belgium and her fanciers to be leading lights in pigeon racing let us take note of a Belgian saying: “reaching the top is far easier than staying there.” In my mind this is what makes a champion because they always strive to improve and look forward to the start of the season with the same fever pitch excitement season after season.
Two people who leapt into my mind as I write these words are Frank Bristow and Geoff Kirkland. I have never met a pair of more enthusiastic and perhaps most importantly down to earth fanciers in England, who for all their success’s remain as committed to the sport and as keen as ever! I had a lovely catch up with Frank over the phone recently and came away full of enthusiasm for the season ahead, perhaps that is also the “secret of a champion fancier” they have the ability to inspire passion in others.
One of the most amazing things about pigeons to me is the fact that it brings us to a close proximity with the life cycle. Each year I have to pinch myself at how quick the youngsters grow; it really is miraculous to see the daily changes in a creature which you yourself have sole responsibility for. As a matter of fact I would go as far to say it is one of the many glorious gifts which this great sport of ours has to offer a fancier and it is my sincere wish that more people both in the pigeon sport and life in general would learn to treasure the simple things because sometimes people have a tendency get so caught up in what is often referred to as the daily grind that they forget the beauty of everyday. We are very lucy as thanks to our pigeons no matter where we live we are surrounded by nature and have access to fresh air.
If I were asked to put my neck on the line when asked which continental long distance fancier is among if not the very best at present time, undoubtedly one name stands out, yes it has to be the enigmatic Etienne Meirlaen from Deurle, in Belgium who makes long distance racing look easy with results such as.
1st National Champion Extreme Long Distance KBDB 2017
1. National Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance KBDB 2017
1. International Ace Extreme Long Distance YL 2017 (Agen-Narbonne)
1. & 2. Best YL of Belgium Extreme Long Distance 2017 – PIPA-ranking
1. General Champion Belgische Verstandhouding-Entente Belge 2017
1. Provincial Champion Long Distance KBDB East-Flanders 2017
3. National Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance KBDB 2017
4. National Ace Extreme Long Dist. & Long Dist YL KBDB 2017
5. National Champion Long Distance KBDB 2017:
Thanks to his super hen "Yelena." I think it is safe to say that he will be a dominant force on the world stage for many years to come. I greatly admire the scientific advances in the sport and those who dig a little deeper into what makes certain pigeons perform better than others. In terms of breeding arguably one of the most revolutionary discoveries of our time is that of the LDHA gene or “speed gene” which I covered in an article in the fancy press sometime ago. Now here is the interesting part when tested it became evident that within her DNA "Yelena" possess the most exceptional LDHA genotype you could wish to find that of A/A. which is found in less than 1% of all pigeons and those that have it are real aces. So this is a rare diamond indeed, truly she is worth her weight in gold with both her children and her grandchildren attaining results that many fanciers can only dream of being mother to:
1. International Narbonne 2011 - 12605b with Monar
1. National Narbonne 2011- 6428b - 1. prov 1187b – 1. club with Monar
4. National Montauban 2011 - 9091b – 1. club with Montali
5. National Montauban 2010 - 6654b – 1. prov – 1. club with the Montauban
7. National Montauban 2014 - 5935 yb with Yelco
10. National Montauban 2012 - 6822b with the Montauban
11. National Narbonne 2010 - 6330b with Monar
12. National Montauban 2010 - 6654b with Montali
13. International Narbonne 2010 - 13,335b with Monar
14. National Agen 2014 - 3180 yl with 161/13
46. International Agen 2014 - 8845yl with 161/13
52. National Montauban 2011 - 9091b with Monar
70. National Limoges 2009 - 7586yb with 220/08
73. National Montauban 2011 - 9091b with the Montauban
83. National Cahors 2012 - 8348b with 219/08
96. National Poitiers 2014 - 14,094 yb with 162/13
A super hen for Etienne Meirlaen
Many regard “Yelena" as the very best breeding hen of her generation in the world because there are few hens who produce winners at both National and international level along with a first National ace pigeon, and a 1st Olympiad Pigeon. Yes my friends, she really is a dream being bred in the noblest of blood. Her dam being: Marathon Lady who herself was an uncrowned Queen of the sky as from what I have found from my reading revealed that her performances as a yearling would have made her the best pigeon of Belgium in the extreme long distance in 2005 as a yearling. Unfortunately, she did not win the title of 1st National Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance KBDB, simply because this title could only be won by old birds, not by yearlings. There was no separate Ace pigeon title for the yearlings either. It is however interesting to note that she did have a lower coefficient than the 1st Nat. Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance in her two races in 2005. Her results include: 2nd Nat. St.Vincent 10,020 p. ’05 and 25th Nat. Perpignan 3,796 p. ’05), and winner of the ‘Grote Marathonprijs KBDB Oost-Vlaanderen 2005’ (grand marathon prize KBDB East Flanders). It was also a smart move to place her in the breeding loft very soon. There she became a very important stock dam. She is now grandmother of the first Nat. Cahors 2012 (with ‘Conar’), the first Prov. Poitiers.
Marathon Lady the mother of Yelena
MONAR BE08-4298283 is a direct descendant of "Yelena" and is a top pigeon.
- Winner of 1. I.Nat Narbonne 2001 - 13 779 birds
- 13. I.Nat Narbonne 2010 - 13 335 birds
- 2. Nat. Ace Cat. E Europa Cup Dormund 2012
- 2. Olympiad Continental Cup Budapest 2012 (Cat. E)
- 1. Nat Narbonne 2011 - 6 531 birds
- 1. I. Nat Narbonne 2011 - 13 779 birds
- 11. Nat Narbonne 2010 - 6 330 birds
- 13. I.Nat Narbonne 2010 - 13 335 birds
- 52. Nat. Montauban 2011 - 9 091 birds
- 571. Nat Montauban 2010 - 6 654 birds
Etienne Meirlaen who’s loft is mainly founded on pigeons from Van Damme-Boddaert and Cor de Heijde. His latest star “Yelena” also contains the blood of: TOPSTAR from the loft of Raoul & Xavier Verstraete – Oostakker. He is father to Xtra: 1. Nat Cahors Gr.father to New Bliksem: 1. Nat Tulle Yearlings 2014 Gr.father to Black Magic: 1. Intnat Perpignan 2014 Gr.father to Monar: 1. Intnat Narbonne 2010.
As I was putting this article together the statemen that Hens are the backbone of the loft was ringing in my ears and we can say that it is a hypothesis which Etienne Meirlaen has thoroughly vindicated thanks to Yelena and her offspring .
The father of Yelena
The Yelena Dynasty
The challenging season fanciers experienced in 2020 didn’t stop this master fancier from getting the very best out of his team and once again the blood of Yelena proved to be as potent as ever in producing top pigeons with first class results culminating in “Yelena's Ace” being awarded the honour of 1st Provincial and 2nd National Ace Pigeon extreme long distance KBDB 2020 and 2nd International Ace Pigeon Europa cup 2020, an outstanding achievement in what was a very testing year for fanciers and people across the world.
For generations you could say that fanciers possessed an obsession with the word strain and that in order to produce birds of any note they must be of X or Y strain. The present day elite fanciers have turned this notion completely upon its head and we are seeing more and more activity in regards to the practice of co and cross breeding which perhaps tells us the two key elements that are needed are birds of sound physique and the capability to win prizes at the highest level the sport of pigeon racing has to offer. “Yelena's Ace” is a prime example of this new trend because the sire is a direct Jan Hooymans bird being s NL11-1911801 (grandson 1. Nat Barcelona x 1. Nat Perpignan x line of the golden Don Michel- Cor de Heijde), crossing with one of the top hens in the Meirlaen breeding loft namely Miss Agen BE13-4077154, herself winner of 1. Prov Agen 659 YL and 3. Nat Agen 3.180 YL, and daughter of base pigeon Montali (son of golden stock hen Yelena) x Daughter Ace Pair (from the 1. Nat Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance KBDB 2008: Cor x Perpignanlady: 1. Nat Ace Pigeon Extreme Long Distance KBDB 2009). Proving that National Ace pigeons produce National Ace pigeons, hence why they are so sought after in the sales rooms and perhaps this is the key to success, but as I said at the beginning to each his own!
Until next time enjoy you pigeons
The loft of international Ace Etienne Meirlaen