Judoka Ingrid Berghmans is a big name in Belgian sport ©Getty Images

The Belgian Olympic and Sport Committee (COIB) has awarded its Order of Merit to judoka Ingrid Berghmans.

The governing body has awarded the honour - now seen as Belgian sport's highest decoration - since 2013 with Berghmans becoming the fourth athlete to receive it.

Now 54, Berghmans enjoyed a fine career in judo, winning six gold medals at World Championship level.

This included four titles in the open class and two at under 72kgs.

She also won a gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korean capital Seoul, where women's judo appeared as a demonstration sport for the first time.

In 2013, Berghmans was the first woman to be included in the Judo Hall of Fame and she has been elected Belgian Sportswoman of the Year on eight occasions.

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Ingrid Berghmans (right) won six world titles in her career ©Getty Images

Described as a "pioneer of Belgian sport" she has also won seven European titles.

"Apart from the tatami, Ingrid Berghmans has inspired and encouraged hundreds of people to sport," said COIB President Pierre-Olivier Beckers. 

"And she still does it.

"Having her on our board was a real added value.

"I am very honoured to hand this award to Ingrid Berghmans.

"She has more than earned this distinction with her commitment to sport."

Berghmans is the first female recipient of the Order of Merit after cyclist Eddy Merckx won the inaugural prize in 2013.

Patrick Sercu and Gaston Roelants, also cyclists, won in 2014 and Robert Van de Walle, who became the first judoka to ever compete at five Olympics, was honoured last year.