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‘We Just Hope He’s Alive’: High-Jumper Jacques Freitag’s Sister

Former world high-jump champion Jacques Freitag has been missing since June 17, last seen in Booysens, Pretoria West. According to his sister, Chrissie du Toit, Freitag was picked up from his mother’s home in Bronkhorstspruit by a man who promised him a job and dropped him off in Booysens. At the time, he was wearing a black jacket and jeans.

Freitag had been facing financial difficulties, which made the job offer enticing. However, his phone is now off, and his family cannot contact him.

Du Toit explained, “His landlord called me, which raised the alarm. We just hope he’s alive and that someone helps him contact us.”

The family is deeply concerned and is urging anyone with information to come forward.

Du Toit said the alarm was raised when Freitag’s landlord called her.

“He said he had been gone since the 10th. I went to his flat and there was nothing. In the end, I found out he was at my mother’s, it was his birthday on the 11th, so he was there with her. Somebody came to pick him up on the 16th late at night and said he had a job for him to do,” she said.

She said on Monday, she opened a missing-person report at Lyttelton police station.

“At this stage, we just hope that he is alive — we hope that he is not cold, he is not hungry, and maybe somewhere on the beach. We are all looking for him, we just hope he is alive and well.”

Du Toit described Freitag as very tall.

“He is over 2m tall, so you won’t miss him, he stands out in the crowd and speaks good English and Afrikaans. His phone is off and obviously no-one knows anyone’s phone numbers off by heart. If he asks somebody to help to phone me, hopefully somebody will help him,” Du Toit said.

Anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts is urged to contact police or Crime Stop on 08600-10111.

Freitag is the only South African to have won world titles at senior, under-20 and under-18 levels, TimesLIVE sports writer David Isaacson reports. He won his first crown in Poland in 1999 and the next year claimed the under-20 mantle in Chile.

At the world championships in Paris in 2003 he emerged victorious with a height of 2.35m to give South Africa a high-jump golden double alongside Hestrie Cloete, the women’s champion.

The month before he had won at the Rome leg of the Golden League, the precursor to the Diamond League. But he was struck down by an injury ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he was unable to advance beyond qualifying, crashing out at 2.25m. It was a tough blow for the competitor boasting a 2.37m personal best at the time — the gold medal was won by Stefan Holm on 2.36, with the silver and bronze medallists both clearing 2.34m.

The next year Freitag raised his South African record to 2.38m at the Absa Series meet in Oudtshoorn — that height would have won Olympic gold at three of the four Games as well as nine of the latest 10 world championships since then.

He was competitive internationally in 2005 with some top-three placings overseas, including Ostrava and the Bislett Games in Oslo, but at the world championships in Helsinki he fell at 2.24m to again fail to reach the final.

Freitag competed only twice in 2006 and three times in 2007, and by that stage the wheels were coming off. He was accused of assault in 2006 after a fight involving a gym partner and a 17-year-old pupil, though the charge was later dropped.

He made a comeback in 2010, achieving a best jump of 2.15m.

In 2012 he was arrested after being found in possession of the drug Cat in Bronkhorstspruit.

In 2013 Freitag, then 31, launched a comeback, competing at the national championships at Stellenbosch, where he ended second with a leap of 2.10m.

Freitag insisted he felt rejuvenated. “Next year I’ll be back to my best,” he told TimesLIVE at the time. But he competed only once more, the next month, clearing 2m to finish second at the South African Open Championships in Potchefstroom.

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