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Home > Sports > News > Reuters > Report

Clijsters defends decision to skip Olympics

January 05, 2004 12:31 IST
Last Updated: January 05, 2004 13:02 IST

World number two tennis player Kim Clijsters has defended her decision to snub this year's Olympic Games, saying the sport does not deserve to be there.

The 20-year-old announced last month that she would not represent Belgium in Athens in August after a wrangle over sponsored clothing.

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On Monday she questioned the validity of the sport in the Games, underlining her decision to stay away.

"Tennis does not feel like an Olympic sport," Clijsters said at the Hopman Cup in Perth. "I don't think they get the publicity or the crowds they get at Grand Slams.

"I mean yeah, great, it is in the Olympics, but for me I don't think it feels like an Olympic sport."

Clijsters, whose Australian fiancé Lleyton Hewitt has also decided not to compete in Athens, came under fire last month for her decision to snub the Belgian team.

But having spent the last couple of months in Australia with Hewitt, Clijsters said the criticism had gone over her head.

"I don't think it reached this far," she smiled, "so I am glad I was here and missed that."

Clijsters said in December that she wanted to "remain fair" to her sponsors -- Italian clothing manufacturer Fila -- after they had shown faith in her two years ago. She had repeatedly said she will not wear tennis clothing from Belgium's Olympic sponsor Adidas.

"As long as my clothing remains an issue, it is impossible for me to go to the Olympics," Clijsters said last month. "I want to remain fair to the people I made a contract with. They were the only ones who wanted me two years ago."

The International Olympic Committee's Belgian president, Jacques Rogge, said he felt it was a decision Clijsters would come to regret.

"I feel sad to hear that Clijsters will not be in Athens," he said, "but she is still young and I am sure that as time passes, she will reflect on that decision.

"She will realise she missed a real opportunity to win a medal but I respect her decision."

Clijsters wished her compatriot and world number one Justine Henin-Hardenne -- already sponsored by Adidas -- luck at the Olympics.

"I really hope Justine takes the gold in Athens and hopefully the other Belgians take plenty of medals as well," she said. "I'll be their number one supporter."

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