Belgium

Pieter Timmers
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Olympic swimming medalist decides not to wait for Tokyo in 2021

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While the vast majority of Olympic hopefuls are continuing on for Tokyo in 2021, Rio Olympic swimming medalist Pieter Timmers decided that he will not.

Timmers, the 2016 Olympic 100m freestyle silver medalist, will retire at the end of 2020, according to a Belgian swimming federation press release.

Timmers said he could have competed for another year, but he already had unspecified plans set for August 2020 and beyond.

Timmers, now 32, was a surprise silver medalist in the Rio Olympic 100m free. He entered the Games ranked 35th in the world in 2016 after tying for seventh at the 2015 World Championships. But Timmers lowered his national record by .42 of a second and took second to Australian Kyle Chalmers. Timmers edged London Olympic champion Nathan Adrian by .05 for the silver.

He became the first Belgian Olympic swimming medalist since Fred Deburghgraeve took the 100m breaststroke at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

He ranked 24th in the world in 2019 and was eliminated in the 100m free semifinals at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships. In 2018, Timmers was sidelined by a collapsed lung and hospitalized with viral meningitis, according to Belgian media.

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Marieke Vervoort, Belgian Paralympian, ends her life by euthanasia

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Marieke Vervoort, a Belgian Paralympian, died via euthanasia on Tuesday, 11 years after signing euthanasia papers so she could decide when to end her life, according to the Belgian Paralympic Committee.

Euthanasia is legal in Belgium.

Vervoort, 40, competed in wheelchair racing with an incurable, degenerative spinal disease that limited her to 10 minutes of sleep on some nights. She earned four Paralympic medals between 2012 and 2016, including 100m gold at the London Games.

Back in 2016, Belgian newspapers reported Vervoort intended to kill herself after the Paralympics ended, which she refuted at the Games.

Vervoort said then that if she didn’t have the euthanasia papers, she would have committed suicide years ago.

“You can go in peace when the time comes,” she told NBC Sports’ Lewis Johnson in Rio. “I don’t want to live like a plant that I need day-in, day-out and during all night that I need all the time somebody with me to help me.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Kim Clijsters announces tennis comeback

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Kim Clijsters, a four-time Grand Slam singles champion, will end a seven-year retirement and return to the WTA Tour next year at age 36.

“What do I really want from life?” the Belgian said in a social media video published Thursday. “For the past seven years, I’ve been a full-time mom, and I love it. I really, really do. But I also loved being a professional tennis player. And honestly, I miss that feeling. So … what if I tried to do both? Could I be loving mum to my three kids and the best tennis player I can possibly be? Let’s do this. Let’s come back one more time. See you at 2020.”

Clijsters retired for a second time after the 2012 season.

She and husband Brian Lynch, a former Villanova basketball player, have three children. Daughter Jada was born in 2008, after which Clijsters came out of retirement to win two U.S. Opens and an Australian Open, and sons Jack in 2013 and Blake in 2016.

“What my first kind of goal would be is to get myself to feel where I want to be at, to know that, OK, I feel ready to be able to compete where I’m fit enough to play tough matches,” she said on the WTA Insider podcast. “If I feel in December that I’m not even near where I want to be, then I’m not going to even go for the sake of going somewhere.”

Clijsters is one of three moms to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open Era, along with Margaret Court and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.

She said she “started from scratch” in training to get back in shape and, even if she does return as early as the pre-Australian Open swing in January, could go two or three months between tournaments.

“Still a long road ahead,” she said. “More energy these last six months than the last two years.”

If Clijsters can get into the world top 60 (and perhaps as low as No. 80) by the end of the French Open, she could outright qualify for the Olympics. She could also be an option for a wild card, but Clijsters dismissed the notion if she’s not playing at a certain level.

“I’m not going to the Olympics because I want to be a part of the Olympics,” she said. “If I go to the Olympics, I want to play at a decent level.”

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