Two-time medalist cites security concerns for withdraw

Updated: May 21, 2004, 11:45 AM ET
Associated Press

WEST WINDSOR, N.J. -- Two-time Olympic medalist Xeno Muller abruptly abandoned his attempt to make the U.S. Olympic rowing team Friday, citing safety concerns as a major reason.

"When you have three children and a wife and you leave them, then leave them again to go overseas, and you see somebody's head getting cut off … you start having clouds in your head for why you want to proceed like this, with all the responsibility about traveling, leaving the family, et cetera," Muller said.

"The news on TV being depressing, you put the whole thing, the bigger picture in question. I had my doubts about traveling to Europe already."

Muller, 31, announced his decision just prior to the start of the U.S. Non-Qualified Olympic Small Boat Trials at Lake Mercer. He was the favorite in the race and was on the water before bringing his boat in five minutes before the first best-of-three men's singles sculls finals.

"I had thought to myself, 'How hard is it to break yourself off from a competitive rowing career?'" Muller said. "Today it's clear. Now, Xeno Muller, as the competitor, the guy who pulls on the oars, is done. This is it."

Muller, who won a gold medal in 1996 and a silver in 2000 while competing for Switzerland, had retired in 2002 after competing at the Swiss national championships.

He decided to try out for the U.S. Olympic team after becoming an American citizen in March, and won the National Selection Regatta I in early April.

"It's a little surprising," said Brett Johnson, communications director for U.S. Rowing. "We obviously respect his decision."

Muller, who lives in Costa Mesa, Calif., said he had been thinking about his decision for a long time.

"There's a time in life and a part of life for different things," he said. "I think I've passed that time where I would leave the family again."

Muller said he did not receive sponsorship money from the U.S. Olympic Committee because he was a non-qualified boat, and finances were starting to become a concern.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press