South Africa’s Gerhard Zandberg has retired from swimming, he announced via his Twitter account today.
Africa’s answer to Matt Grevers, the 6’8″ Zandberg was the 2007 World Champion in the 50 backstroke, to which he added bronzes in the same race at the 2003, 2009, and 2011 World Championships.
Zandberg, who is a 50 meter specialist, did not swim at the 2012 Summer Olympics (he didn’t even race at the trials). He made a brief return in 2013 at 30 years old, where he finished 13th in the 50 backstroke and failed to advance to the final after slipping off of the blocks in the final.
The comeback was not without controversy, though. He received from heat from Swimming South Africa after ‘breaking team rules’ in Barcelona. Specifically, after asking to swap rooms to avoid catching a cold that his roommate Cameron van der Burgh had contracted, and receiving no response, Zandberg paid for his own room, which he shared with his girlfriend Linda.
For a seemingly-minor infraction, Zandberg received a punishment of 50,000 Rand ($5,000) which was later reduced to 4,000 Rand ($500); a 2-year suspension from swimming; 1 year of community service; and an immediate scratch from all World Cup events, around which there is little ability for Zandberg to compete.
This left him with two options: either appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, or retire. Waiting out a two-year suspension at his age would have been illogical.
Zandberg also took a gold medal as a part of the South African 400 free relay at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Zandberg’s only public statement on the matter was a simple Tweet where he said that his swimming career has come to an end. Tagged in the Tweet were two South African journalists who have been vocal critics of Swimming South Africa’s punishment.