JAPAN'S top female freestyler, Suzu Chiba, who was not named to her country's 2000 Olympic Team for the Sydney Games, has decided to retire, according to an official of the Japanese Amateur Swimming Federation (JASF).
"We have been notified that she will retire," the official said. He did not specify any reasons for her retirement, but the swimmer and the federation have been at odds in the past.
In June, 25-year-old Chiba appealed against the decision to omit her from the Olympic team even though she met the qualifying standard at Olympic Trials in April. At that meet she swam with a high fever and had to be hospitalized immediately afterward. In 1999, Chiba ranked second in the world in the 200m free (1:58.78) and third in the 100 (54.99). She was considered a medal threat for Sydney and the key swimmer on the Japanese 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 freestyle relay teams.
After she was not named to the Japanese Olympic Team she appealed to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), claiming that the decision had been based on the personal opinions of Japanese officials, rather than her swimming skills. However, in a decision that flew in the face of the facts, the Court ruled that the JASF had treated all swimmers equally.
Chiba reportedly angered JASF officials by brushing off concerns about failing to reach her personal best time at the Trials, saying what really mattered was how she did at the Olympics.
Chiba was the Japanese swimming team captain at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and was blamed by JASF for the squad's poor showing. Officials were also unhappy about her decision to train in Canada in preparation for Sydney.