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Olympian sues over cut in grants after car crash injuries derailed his London 2012 hopes

By Alan Erwin

Published 16/06/2015

Andrew Bree
Andrew Bree

A two-time Olympian swimmer's goal of finishing his career by qualifying for the 2012 London Games was derailed by a car accident, he has told the High Court.

Andrew Bree insisted he had been confident of making the time before sustaining head, back and leg injuries in the collision in Belfast.

Mr Bree is suing the other motorist's insurers for the cuts to his funding grants when he failed to qualify.

The 200m breaststroke swimmer, from Co Down, represented Ireland at the 2000 and 2008 Olympics.

Once ranked 15th in the world, he had been aiming for a third Games in London when he was involved in an accident on Belfast's Ravenhill Road in October 2010.

Three months later he was back in training in the United States, but failed in his efforts to make the qualifying time.

With liability not contested, the court action is centred on the level of any payout to be awarded.

Mr Justice Stephens was told in the year up to the accident the swimmer received more than £15,000 funding from Sport NI.

He had also been allocated €12,000 from the Irish Sports Council for each of the three preceding years.

Recalling his state of mind after the accident, and his struggle to qualify, he said: "It was a dark place.

"I felt isolated, I was at a level of training surrounded by such a high, elite group."

Once it was confirmed that he would not be going to London he said he "just wanted to go away and escape".

Mr Bree's barrister, Niall Hunt QC, asked about the impact of being sidelined for three months after the accident.

"It derailed me," Mr Bree said.

"I was confident in my swimming and confident in myself.

"That took a jolt, and I spent more energy, more thoughts concentrating on trying to get back to that instead of focusing on the Olympics and my goal for that."

Under cross-examination, counsel for the defendant put it to him that a new leg injury was sustained in a 2011 and suggested his times for his event had been worsening.

"Your own record book shows you had lost four seconds between 2008 and 2010," the barrister said.

But Mr Justice Stephens pointed out: "Sometimes the record book doesn't take into account personal circumstances in which races are run and performed."

The hearing continues.

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