‘I’m Really Happy About It:’ Pieter Timmers Ends Career after ISL Match

Pieter Timmers New York Breakers ISL (photo: Mike Lewis)
New York Breakers' Pieter Timmers; Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis/ISL

Back in April, when the world was just feeling the bite of COVID-19 lockdowns, Pieter Timmers announced he would retire instead of pursuing the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. Friday, he got a swimming sendoff worthy of his great career.

Timmers told his International Swimming League team, the New York Breakers, that Match 8 of the season would be his final one, whether or not the Breakers advanced to the semifinals. It was relayed on ISL’s broadcast and confirmed by the Belgian sprinter in the post-match virtual mixed zone, and through his prolific social media posting.

“I’m going to retire now,” Timmers said. “This was my last race. I really enjoyed it. They were pretty good, so I’m really happy about it.”

The silver medalist in the 100 freestyle at the Rio Olympics, Timmers’ last swim was the mixed free relay, helping the Breakers finish third. Members of the Breakers’ two relays came out on deck with signs paying tribute to Timmers.

Earlier in the meet, he’d finished seventh in the 50 free, fourth in the 100 free and was part of the Breakers’ fourth-place men’s free relay. His return of 12.5 points in Match 8 was his highest of four matches this season. Last season, Timmers competed for Team Iron in the inaugural ISL campaign.

Timmers, 32, wraps up a stellar career that includes nine medals at European competitions. The highlight was the swim of a lifetime in Rio, pulling a surprise in the 100 free final, an event he entered ranked 35th in the world. He was behind Kyle Chalmers of Australia, but his 47.80 was not just a national record but beat favorites like Nathan Adrian, Caeleb Dressel, Duncan Scott and Cameron McEvoy to a medal. It was Belgium’s first men’s Olympic swimming medal in 20 years.

“He has had a wonderful career, something he should be incredibly proud of,” Rowdy Gaines said on the broadcast. “One of the greats, he will really be missed in the sport of swimming.”

Another Olympic run was off the table once the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Tokyo Games until the summer of 2021. Other priorities took precedence for Timmers. He and his wife, Elle, bought a house to move into post-Tokyo, and a second baby is on the way. It got to a point, as Timmers related Friday, that he didn’t want to put life on the backburner any longer.

A clear end point, without waiting for the semifinals determination, gets Timmers home to his family quicker.

“It’s been a long four weeks now, so I’m happy to go back to the family of course,” he said. “I wasn’t really emotional, but I really lived this day, like I’m going to remember it. The team celebrated me, so that was pretty cool. They were cheering so loud for me that it gave me goosebumps. It was nice to go out with a blast.”

Pieter Timmers had no problem with how the final meet went down, thanking his team for the sendoff they gave him. It was enough to even give Timmers an uncharacteristic jolt of nerves before that last swim. Even in an empty arena, the Breakers made him feel surrounded by love.

“Before the start of my last individual, the 100 freestyle, I got pretty nervous because you feel the team vibe and everybody was cheering for me and saying good luck for your last race and this and that,” he said. “So you feel that and you take that with you in the race. I really wanted to do a good race, so I was pretty nervous for the last ones.”


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Squad goals for a last meet ? . 1 more day of racing left: 100 free and 4×100 free mixed. ?? #GoBreakers

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