At the tender age of eight, this youngster started swimming at the Roeselare Swim Club. He was coached by his father for the first eight years of his life. Once he reached a certain level, his father thought he needed a more experienced coach and they found a Dutchman by the name of Ronald Gaastra. But even when he was competing at the elite levels, he did not have ideal training conditions.
Gaastra lived 100 kilometers from Roeselare and would communicate workouts by phone. He would visit only once a week, so his father remained Deburghgraeve's main support and motivator. Much of the time, Deburghgraeve trained by himself. He was the oldest in the club and had no real peers, especially at his elite level. This makes his accomplishments that much more impressive.
But, it was not until the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games that Deburghgraeve really made his mark. He swam a 1:00.60 in the 100 meter breaststroke, breaking the world record in the morning and going on to win the gold medal in the final that evening. This feat made him the first person in history to win a gold medal in swimming for his native homeland of Belgium.
In addition to his long course world record, Fred also set two short course world records. He took the Phillips Petroleum Award home to Belgium after breaking his own world record in the 100 meter breaststroke with a 58.79 at the U.S. Open at College Station in late 1998. Deburghgraeve ended his career on a high note by taking home gold in the 100 meter breaststroke at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Australia.