Brewing for a while now, Japanese Olympic champion Rie Kaneto has officially submitted her retirement papers to her nation’s swimming federation, with a formal press conference scheduled for March 16th.
The women’s 200m breaststroke gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Games has been contemplating retirement since last year, having opted out of the 2017 World Championships and not competing in any World Cup or elite domestic meets. Instead, she has racked up the outside-the-pool accolades of being an Olympic champion, having been awarded the Citizens Medal of Honor, as well as being recognized by her Hiroshima Prefecture in the form of a bronze statue.
The now-29-year-old had an unusual career path, not achieving her biggest success until she was 28 years of age. She found herself failing to make the 2012 Olympic team after having been in Japan’s line-up at just 19 at the Beijing Games and Kaneto considered quitting the sport several times until she grinded her way to a breakthrough.
Kaneto cranked out a new national record (and All Comers Record) in the 200m breaststroke while competing at the Aquatic Super Series in Perth, Australia in early 2016.
She followed that up with another record-breaking performance at Japan’s Olympic Trials in April of that year, touching in a monster time of 2:19.65, a mark that remains as the 7th fastest performance of all time. Her confidence-building swims finally came to a head in Rio, where she beat out Russia’s Yulia Efimova to stand atop the podium at 27 years of age.