Perec flees athletics for good

8th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 7 (AFP) - Probably France's finest ever athlete triple Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec announced her retirement from athletics on Monday.

PARIS, June 7 (AFP) - Probably France's finest ever athlete triple Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec announced her retirement from athletics on Monday.

The 36-year-old had not raced since July 8th 2000 and she told French television that she made the decision eight months ago but had wanted to get used to the experience of not training and competing before officially announcing it.

Perec won the 400m at the 1992 Olympics and then did the 200m/400m double at the 1996 Games in Atlanta as well as twice being crowned world champion at 400m in 1991 and 1995 and picked up 400m and 4x400m relay gold in the 1994 European championships.

"I am here this evening to tell you that this beautiful adventure which began when I was a 15-year-old finishes this year," said the Guadeloupe-born athlete.

"I have finally decided to hang up my spikes.

"Even for myself it makes me laugh to say 'I am ending my career' but it is the case.

"It has been in any case eight months since I took the decision, but I needed to get used to the feeling. I needed to manage my body with this feeling, this 'thing' and to tell myself 'it is over'," added.

However the lasting impression of her will be her fleeing the Sydney Olympics in 2000 just ahead of her much-awaited duel with Australian darling Cathy Freeman.

She claimed to have fled along with boyfriend Athuan Maybank because of a stalker - the couple then engaged in a clash with a television crew who tracked them down to Singapore airport.

However she explained that it was the antagonism she encountered in Australia was the reason for her running away.

"In Sydney I thought that I was preparing myself for a 400m, and instead I turned up to find I was taking on a whole country.

"There was so much aggressiveness towards me, it was too much and I cracked."I wasn't too fragile, no.

"I knew that there would be a tough fight with Freeman.

"But it was too much, though, at the same time I didn't think that my career was over."

Perec said that she now wanted to enjoy a normal life.

"I am going to finally discover a real life, an everyday sort of life. I feel euphoric and very excited," said Perec, whose last track victory dates back to August 16 1996 in Cologne.

"I have got a huge tourism project lined-up for Guadeloupe.

"And I am also going to help the Federation a little bit in terms of public relations, things like that with the youngsters," added Perec, who will be at the Olympics in Athens acting as a television pundit.

Robert Poirier, the technical director of the French Athletics Federation, paid a handsome tribute to Perec, who was not always helpful to her chiefs refusing to live with the other athletes as at the 1997 world championships in Athens where she preferred to stay with the John Smith group of athletes.

On another occasion for the 1997 European Cup in Munich the team only found out she would not be competing through the radio.

"Let bygones be bygones and forget Sydney especially.

"She is an exceptional athlete who has turned to a new page in her life.

"She passes from a life of an athlete to the life of a woman.

"It is good that she has said it as it was for her to do when she thought it was correct.

"This evening I saw a radiant and relieved woman," added Poirier.


Subject: French news



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