sport

Adlington confirms retirement

Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington has confirmed her retirement from competitive swimming but vowed to stay in the pool until she is 90.

The 23-year-old's future has been the subject of much debate since she claimed two bronze medals at the London Olympics last summer.

At a press conference today in London, the Mansfield-born swimmer confirmed she was bringing to an end a glittering career that has brought her Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles.

"I hate the word retire," she said. "I love swimming but as a competitive element and elite athlete I won't compete any more.

"I'll always be swimming, even when I am 90 years old."

Adlington recalled with fondness her 400 metre and 800m gold medals in Beijing and said she was convinced the timing of her decision was right.

"Beijing changed my entire life, everyone wanted to learn about me. It was the best moment of my entire career and I am so glad my (800m) world record still stands.

"But it's time. I certainly can't compete with that (younger swimmers). I can't do the same level of work, I need far more time for recovery."

Adlington's announcement came less than 24 hours after her coach and mentor since the age of 12 Bill Furniss was unveiled as the new Great Britain coach and she paid tribute to him and her family.

"I couldn't have done it without my family. Even my sisters, they helped me with my homework," she said.

"Bill is the biggest thing....he has helped me as an athlete as much as a person. Now I've not got Bill with me, I feel a little bit lost.

"The medals - they are not just mine - they are my family's, Bill's. I think he is going to do such a brilliant job (as GB head coach)."

Now Adlington is looking to leave her own legacy by setting up programmes with a dream that each child in Britain can learn to swim.

Furniss guided Adlington to her first senior international medal in the 800m freestyle at the 2006 European Championships although that year saw her miss out on the Commonwealth Games.

The following year was a difficult one with a 10th-placed finish at the World Championships but at the Olympic trials in 2008 she marked herself out as a real contender.

Few, though, would have predicted such an outcome.

With victory in the 400m freestyle, the Nova Centurion athlete became the first British swimmer to win Olympic gold since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988 and, significantly, the first British woman since Anita Lonsbrough triumphed in Rome in 1960.

The 800m was astonishing, Adlington taking more than two seconds off Janet Evans' world record which had stood for more than 20 years.

Double gold saw Adlington become the most successful British swimmer of the modern era, the first since Henry Taylor in 1908 to win two golds at a single Games.

Her joy in China contrasted with her devastation just a year later after finishing fourth in the longer race at the World Championships in Rome.

She soon acknowledged she had not done the endurance training required for distance swimming because of all the invitations that had come her way since Beijing.

Adlington has always maintained she learns more from her lows than her highs and after that, world, European and Commonwealth titles rolled in - testament to her drive, single-mindedness and talent.