She won two gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and added two bronze to her collection during London 2012, but at the age of just 23 Rebecca Adlington has announced her retirement from professional swimming.
Adlington first came to the attention of the public when she claimed Olympic gold in the 400m freestyle event in Beijing, becoming the first British woman to win a title in the pool since Anita Lonsbrough in 1960. She went on to score a double victory with a further gold in the 800m freestyle, becoming the first British swimmer to win more than one since Henry Taylor’s treble in 1908.
When it came to London 2012, the nation was convinced she would match her achievements in Beijing. But instead of defending her titles, Adlington came away with two bronze medals, admitting that performing in front of a home crowd, “kinds of adds stuff and you forget that all that is a toll on you, and the emotion can take it out of you a little bit”.
Of her retirement Adlington said, “I hate the word retire. I love swimming but as a competitive element and elite athlete I won’t compete any more. I have achieved everything I wanted to. Some people want to milk it all they can. I’ve always said I wanted to finish on a high despite my love of the sport.
“I’ll always be swimming even when I am 90 years old.”
Watch Rebecca win her 400m freestyle gold medal in Beijing below: