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Olympic swimmer in £25k payout over car crash that ended his London 2012 dreams

By Alan Erwin and David Kelly

Published 17/06/2015

Former Olympic swimmer Andrew Bree
Former Olympic swimmer Andrew Bree

A two-time Olympic swimmer who failed to qualify for the 2012 London Games after being injured in a car accident is to receive £25,000 in damages.

The payout to Andrew Bree forms part of a settlement reached in his compensation claim at the High Court in Belfast.

Mr Bree is also to get his legal costs in bringing a lawsuit over the head, back and leg injuries he sustained in the collision.

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 US, but failed in his efforts to make the qualifying time.

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

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

The court heard that in the year up to the accident the swimmer received more than £15,000 from Sport NI. He had also been allocated €12,000 from the Irish Sports Council for each of the three preceding years. Mr Bree claimed that the goal of finishing his career at the London Games was derailed by the accident.

It was contended that he then pushed himself too hard in a bid to make up for the time sidelined after the car accident. He then sustained a new leg injury in a 2011 training regime where he was wearing a 50lb body vest.

In his evidence the swimmer insisted he had been confident of making the time before the collision. Recalling his state of mind after the accident, and his struggle to qualify, he told the court: "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 said he had been aiming to finish in London and become a three-time Olympian. Instead, he described how his confidence was "jolted" by the accident.

Under cross-examination it was suggested his times for his event were worsening. The court heard claims that Mr Bree lost four seconds between 2008 and 2010.

Speaking after the end of the case, Mr Bree said: "When the injury happened in 2010 I was devastated.

"In January of that year I had moved to the Dave Salo camp in Southern California where you had 27 Olympians training side by side, including the 200m breaststroke Olympic champion Kosuke Kitajami. We battled hard every day together.

"Salo had a different way of training so it took a bit of getting used to, but once I did I could see the effects. I started to post some of the fastest times of my career. But the accident hit me hard, ultimately it ended my London 2012 dream.

"London 2012 would have been the perfect way to end my career but it wasn't to be. I was out of the pool for three months after the accident, and for a swimmer that is a huge handicap.

"I fought hard to get back to the level I knew I could be at and even did extra physical training, but that only led to a leg injury, so in the final year of qualifying I just couldn't get anywhere near my best and, as well as that, my funding had been cut.

"It was a very tough, sad way to go out, knowing that I wasn't able to give my best. So I had to leave the States and come back home. I've stayed in the sport and I'm doing some coaching, which I would like to develop."

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