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Athletics - 11. March 2013.

Hellebaut announces her retirement

When the bar came crashing down, the pain on her face told more than just the story of elimination from the European Athletics Indoor Championships in Göteborg.

But missing out at 1.87m was not just the end for Tia Hellebaut in the high jump in Sweden, it was the end of her fabulous career.

On Wednesday morning, Belgian Hellebaut, the 2008 Olympic champion, announced her retirement from the sport.

At 35, the mother of two has decided to bring an end to her career because the time is right and it is all about balancing the aspects of her life.

Hellebaut said: "This is a good time to stop. I can no longer challenge myself mentally in competition."

Not since she was 14th at the World Championships in Osaka in 2007 has Antwerp-born Hellebaut finished as low down a field as she did in Göteborg where she was eighth.

It was the same Swedish city where in 2006 she won her first senior title with victory in a clearance of 2.03m at the European Athletics Championships.

A few months later she won the European Athletics Indoor crown in Birmingham and after the blip in Osaka, came World indoor and then Olympic glory in Beijing where a personal best of 2.05m took her to gold.

Speaking to Leslie.be, Hellebaut added: "I do not want to just be in the final."

She had actually retired from the sport at the end of December 2008 ahead of the birth of her first daughter Lotte who was born in June the following year.

But she returned to the sport the following year and then after the birth of her second child Saartje in 2011, she was back last year when she was fifth at both the World Indoor Championships in Istanbul and Olympic Games in London.

She had jumped 1.97m in February and spoke in Göteborg after her qualification about her hopes - but also hinting of retirement.

As she said: "Upto now the season is going well. I am 35, I have two children and I have nothing to lose anymore.

"My body is still fit, I still like to do what I am doing.

"The moment I have a feeling I am not able to go for the medals anymore, I will stop immediately and do something else."

And now that day has now come, perhaps sooner than she thought, the sport bade farewell to a brilliant ambassador.
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