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Missing Former Olympic Champ Found Dead

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South African police confirmed on Wednesday, July 3 that the body of Jacques Freitag, a former high jump world champion, had been discovered near Zandfontein Cemetery in Pretoria, South Africa. The 42-year-old athlete had been reported missing since mid-June and authorities are now treating his death as a murder.

Freitag was last sighted on June 17 at approximately 1 a.m., leaving his mother’s residence in Pretoria West in the company of an unidentified man.

Freitag, a world champion in the high jump at the 2003 Paris Games and an athlete in the 2004 Athens Olympics, had multiple gunshot wounds when his body was discovered. No arrests have been made so far, but the police are looking for two people, Rudie Lubbe and Chantelle Oosthuizen, in what may be a love triangle motive. Lubbe and Oosthuizen are believed to be on the run.

In an attempt to locate her brother, Freitag’s sister, Chrissie Lewis, had turned to social media for assistance. According to Lewis, Freitag had been battling drug addiction since his retirement from athletics in 2013.

In a mid-June Facebook post, Lewis expressed her brother’s struggles post-retirement. “Jacques had a hard time after he stopped competing. He couldn’t find a stable path, and his addiction only made things worse,” she wrote, appealing for information on his whereabouts.

Freitag was one of the rare athletes to secure world titles at the youth, junior, and senior levels. His athletic talent was widely acknowledged, with a personal best high jump of 7 feet 10 inches in 2005, which still stands as a South African national record.

Hendrick Mokganyetsi, chairperson of Athletics South Africa’s commission, lauded Freitag’s contribution 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 stated.

Freitag’s career started when he was young. He bagged the gold medal at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Santiago, Chile, and later at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. His powerful jumping style and consistently high performance marked his athletic success.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo said a search-and-rescue team found Freitag’s body on July 2. The circumstances leading to Freitag’s death are still uncertain, with his family yet to make public comments on the matter. “We are treating this as a murder case and are following up on several leads. We urge anyone with information to come forward,” Masondo stated.

The South African sports community continues to grieve the loss of one of its most accomplished athletes. Freitag’s friends and former teammates remember him not only for his athletic prowess but also for his affable and approachable demeanor.

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

Despite his struggle with addiction, Freitag’s legacy in the high jump remains unscathed. His 2005 jump of 7 feet 10 inches is one of the highest ever recorded by a South African athlete. However, his life took a turbulent turn after his retirement from professional sports.

Local media have speculated that Freitag might have been entangled in a conflict related to his addiction, but the police investigation is ongoing, and no official sources have confirmed this. Authorities have not revealed any potential suspects or motives.

The news of Freitag’s death has been met with shock and sorrow in the athletics world. Fans and fellow athletes have been paying tribute to him on social media for his contributions to the sport. Athletics South Africa plans to hold a memorial to honor his achievements and support his family during this difficult time.

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