By Johan Dobbelaere
Focus TV, Belgium
BRUGGE, BELGIUM, May 7. BELGIUM's Olympic swimming champion Frederik Deburghgraeve is considering retirement after failing to attain the qualifying time for the Sydney Olympics this weekend. The 26-year-old Deburghgraeve, world record holder in the 100 metres breaststroke, told his coach Ronald Gaastra he planned to end his career after a poor performance in the Flanders Grand Prix in Bruges.
In a Saturday morning heat, Deburghgraeve made an all-out effort to reach the qualifying time for the 100 metres breaststroke at this year's Olympics. But his time of one minute 3.87 seconds fell well short of the
1:02.86 second target. Trainer Ronald Gaastra said Deburghgraeve was "terribly disappointed with his performance."
"Immediately after the race, Fred did in fact say he did not see how he could go on. But after some time for rest and reflection, he nevertheless said he wants to think about it a bit more. So I hope from the bottom of my heart that the decision will not be definitive", said Gaastra.
"I can understand his decision to stop", commented Belgian standard bearer and female breaststroke swimmer Brigitte Becue, "He had it all. World
champion, world records, Fred won the gold medal at Atlanta. If he goes to Sydney it's not to be a tourist. He wants at least a medal and especially a
golden one. I don't know if he made his decision to stop in the heat of the moment, but Fred also knows that it's not enough to swim the qualifying time. There are a opponents who swim faster for the moment and it won't be enough to swim the qualifying time of 1:02.86 to get gold at Sydney."
Deburghgraeve eclipsed the men's 100 metres breast-stroke world record in the heats before winning the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. He also won the world 100 metres breaststroke title in Perth in
January 1998. In December 1998, he set a world short-course record in the 100 metres breaststroke at the U.S. Open at College Station, Texas, clocking 58.79 seconds. That time was eclipsed twice this year–first by Russia's Roman Sloudnov at the Short Course World Championships in Athens, then a week later by America's Ed Moses at the NCAA Championships in Minneapolis.