Three-time Olympic breaststroke medalist Christian Sprenger has retired from competitive swimming, Swimming Australia announced on Thursday morning. He’s 30 years old
Sprenger cited an injury that cost him most of his 2014 and 2015 seasons as the primary factor in his decision.
“The injury I sustained in 2014 really took a bigger toll on me than I thought it would,” Sprenger said today.
“After returning in 2015, after almost four months out of the water, I worked hard to get back what I had lost, but although I may have thought I wanted it, it wasn’t enough,” Sprenger said. “Towards the end of 2015, my breaststroke just didn’t feel how it used to, and I became more and more frustrated.
“The Olympic gold is the only thing missing from my collection, but in this sport, if the mind and body are not perfectly in sync and focused beyond capacity, the performance will not come. Ultimately for me, I am not there anymore, and although I may be good enough to make the Olympic team, I can’t just be a number on a team, that is not who I am.”
Sprenger is a former World Record holder in the 200 breaststroke in both long course and short course meters, though later in his career he grew more focused on the 100 meter breaststroke
Sprenger won medals in both of his Olympic appearances. In 2008, it was as the silver medalist on Australia’s 400 medley relay, and in 2012 he won bronze on the same relay and added a silver in the individual 100 breaststroke. He came up as the primary victim to Cameron van der Burgh’s admittedly intentional breaking of the rules in the Olympic final in that 100 breaststroke.
Sprenger also is the owner of 6 World Championship medals, including a 2013 gold in the 100 just prior to the injuries began to hit hard; along with two Pan Pac medals and 6 Commonwealth Games medals.
His shoulder injury first came to the attention of the world at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, though he declared after that he was determined to return to 100%.
The announcement couples on the 2013 retirement of Brenton Rickard since the 2012 Games, and leaves 20-year old Jake Packard at the top of a suddenly-thin Australian breaststroke group. Packard currently ranks 5th in the world in the 100 breaststroke in the 2015-2016 season (59.94).
He’ll be a key leg for Australia’s hope at an Olympic medal in the medley relay, coupling with Australia’s freestyle tandem of Cameron McEvoy and James Magnussen, plus the emergence of Mitch Larkin as the world’s top backstroker.
“I have been fortunate enough to have many defining moments throughout my career where I have achieved things beyond my own belief,” Sprenger said today, as he reflected on his decade long international career.
“I went into the 2012 Olympics ranked number six in the world and took out the silver medal. But in 2013 taking the world title in Barcelona, was when I felt like I was unbeatable. It wasn’t something people could see, but it was something that I could feel, and that’s all that I needed.”
Read the full comments of Sprenger and others within Swimming Australia in their press release here.