Clijsters threatens to boycott Olympics

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The Independent Online

Kim Clijsters, the world No 2, has claimed she will refuse to compete in next year's Athens Olympics yesterday if the Belgian Olympic Committee does not allow her to play in her sponsored outfit.

Clijsters insisted she would refuse to wear clothing from Belgium's Olympic sponsor, adidas, out of respect for her personal sponsor, Fila. "As long as my clothing remains an issue, it is impossible for me to go to the Olympics," she said. "Even though I would like to go and even though I would be able to fit it into my schedule."

Her fellow Belgian, Justine Henin-Hardenne, the world No 1, is sponsored by adidas and has already committed to playing in Athens. With hopes high that the women's tennis in Athens could provide only the country's third gold medal in the past 20 years, the Belgian Olympic Committee said it was still negotiating with all the parties concerned in an effort to persuade Clijsters to reconsider. "We are looking for a constructive way out of this problem," said Piet Moons, the committee's marketing director. However, the committee has ruled out that a competitor will be able to participate in anything but Belgian Olympic clothing.

Clijsters said her contract clearly stipulated that she would always have to play in her company's clothing. "Everything is tailor-made and they also produce a special clothing line," she said. "It seems normal that I respect my contract and do not play in another outfit. It has nothing to do with money."

Moons refused to say how much the adidas contract was worth but claimed their relationship went beyond that. The German sports manufacturer has sponsored the Belgian team since 1976 and is also involved in backing the Belgians participating in the Paralympics and the Olympic youth festival.

The American Lisa Raymond will lead off her country's challenge for an 18th Fed Cup victory when she takes on France's Amélie Mauresmo in the first singles match of final today.

Raymond, who won both her singles matches and partnered Martina Navratilova to a doubles win in the 4-1 semi-final victory over Belgium, will face the world No 4 in the first of two days of final action at Moscow's Olympic sports complex. The French eliminated the hosts and favourites Russia 3-2 in their semi-final.

Fed cup final, Moscow, today (US names first, begins 10.00 GMT): L Raymond v A Mauresmo; M Shaughnessy v M Pierce. Sunday: Shaughnessy v Mauresmo; Raymond v Pierce; M Navratilova and Raymond v E Loit and Pierce.