By John Dobbelaere
May 12, BRUSSELS. It's definite: Fred Deburghgraeve–Belgium's Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 100 meter breaststroke has decided to call it quits!
In a sad day for Belgian swimming, Olympic 100 meters breaststroke champion Frederik Deburghgraeve announced his retirement, a week after failing to attain the qualifying time for the Sydney Games. No more Olympic
Games for Fred, no more competition. "I am selling all my swimming trunks, I am stopping," 26-year-old Deburghgraeve said.
Everyone in Belgium is very disappointed about the decision, which Deburghgraeve announced in a press conference in Brussels. "I am tired and I think it's no longer possible for me to win any medals at the Games. I don't want to go to the Olympics and not bring back a medal," he said, "so it's over and out. This weekend, on Sunday afternoon, I will swim my last 100 metres at the Grand Prix in Antwerp.
Deburghgraeve, who eclipsed the 100 metres breaststroke world record in the heats before winning the gold medal at the Atlanta Olympics, failed
to achieve the required time of one minute 2.86 seconds to qualify for Sydney last week. Deburghgraeve swam 1.03.87.
"I was very disappointed after Saturday morning in Brugge. I did my utmost best but I failed. I was working for months and if you feel that it doesn't work, it hurts enormously. I feel that my best days have gone. It's better to stop."
Deburghgraeve, winner of the 100 breaststroke world title in 1998, was seen as Belgium's best hope for Olympic gold and starred in a glossy television commercial to promote the country's sporting ambitions,
entitled "Sydney here we come".
Francois Narmon, president of the Belgian Olympic
Committee, played down the significance of Deburghgraeve's retirement. "It wasn't just him going to Sydney. He was the symbol of the whole team that
will represent us," Narmon told.
Ronald Gaastra, Fred's coach, was very disappointed. "I feel that he has a lack of confidence. It's sad that the career of such an athlete stops in this way."