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Missing Olympic Champ Found Dead in Field

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The body of Jacques Freitag, the former high jump world champion, was found in a field near Zandfontein Cemetery in Pretoria, South Africa, according to local police confirmation on Wednesday, July 3. The 42-year-old athlete had disappeared since mid-June, and his death is currently being investigated as a murder.

Freitag was reportedly last seen leaving his mother’s house in Pretoria West with an unidentified man on June 17 around 1 a.m.

Freitag, a world high jump champion crowned in Paris in 2003 and a participant in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was found with several gunshot wounds. No arrests have been made yet, but authorities are following up on potential leads.

Chrissie Lewis, Freitag’s sister, had used social media to seek assistance in finding her brother. Lewis stated that Freitag had been dealing with drug addiction since he retired from his athletic career in 2013.

“Jacques had a hard time after he stopped competing. He couldn’t find a stable path, and his addiction only made things worse,” Lewis posted on Facebook in mid-June, soliciting information on his whereabouts.

Freitag was one of the few athletes to secure world titles at youth, junior, and senior levels. His athletic accomplishments were well-known, particularly his personal best of 7 feet 10 inches in 2005, which still holds the South African national record.

Hendrick Mokganyetsi, chairperson of Athletics South Africa’s commission, remarked on Freitag’s significant contributions to the sport. “Jacques was a beacon of talent and inspiration. His achievements on the field were extraordinary, and he paved the way for future generations of South African high jumpers,” Mokganyetsi said.

Freitag’s career started at a young age. He won a gold medal at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, and subsequently at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. His athletic prowess was characterized by his powerful jumping style and consistency in performance.

The circumstances leading to Freitag’s death remain uncertain. His family has refrained from public comment, leaving many questions unanswered. Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo announced that a search-and-rescue team located Freitag’s body on July 2. “We are treating this as a murder case and are following up on several leads. We urge anyone with information to come forward,” Masondo said.

The disappearance and subsequent death of Freitag have cast a pall over the South African sports community, which mourns the loss of one of its most accomplished athletes. Freitag was remembered by friends and former teammates not only for his athletic capabilities but also for his affable and accessible demeanor.

“He was always willing to help younger athletes and was a mentor to many,” said Mokganyetsi. “His passing is a significant loss to our community.”

Despite his battle with addiction, Freitag’s legacy in the high jump remains intact. His jump of 7 feet 10 inches in 2005 remains one of the highest jumps recorded by a South African athlete. However, life took a troubled turn for Freitag after his retirement from professional sports.

The police investigation continues, and no potential suspects or motives have been revealed. Local media has speculated that Freitag may have been embroiled in a dispute related to his addiction, but this has not been confirmed by official sources.

The world of athletics has responded with surprise and sorrow. Social media is awash with tributes from fans and fellow athletes who remember Freitag for his contributions to the sport. Athletics South Africa has announced plans for a memorial to honor his accomplishments and to provide support to his family during this challenging time.

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