Alicia Coutts, the fastest Australian ever in textile in the 200 IM, has decided to retire from the sport of swimming.
The 29-year-old Coutts is one of Australia‘s best swimmers in history– she’s a five-time Olympic medalist, and adds to that tally 8 World Championship medals, 6 Pan Pacs medals, and 9 Commonwealth Games medals. Most recently, she competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she finished 5th in the 200 IM.
The Brisbane Queensland native first broke out onto the international scene at the 2008 Beijing Olympics– there, she’d finish 5th in the 200 IM. 2010 was the year that she would win her first international medals. Coutts earned three medals at the 2010 Pan Pacs, one of which was an individual bronze in the 100 fly. She then went on to earn an astounding five gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, three of which were individual (100 fly, 100 free, and 200 IM).
Coutts touched for silver in the 100 fly and 200 IM at the 2011 World Championships, and picked up a bronze in the 400 medley relay. 2012 was a huge year for her– at the London Olympics, she snagged the 4×100 free relay gold and helped set the Olympic Record in the process. Individually, she earned a silver in the 200 IM and a bronze in the 100 fly, while helping the Aussies to silvers in the 4×100 medley relay and the 4×200 free relay. In the following year at the World Championships in Barcelona, Coutts picked up five silver medals to add to her total haul.
Coutts has garnered ten national LCM titles in her illustrious career. Additionally, she’ll go down in Australian history as one of only three Aussies to earn five medals at one Olympic Games (the other two being Shane Gould and Ian Thorpe) with her performances in London.
Her career hasn’t been strictly marked by golden success, however. She suffered from a shoulder injury in 2015, causing her to miss the Kazan World Championships.
“Alicia tore her labrum in her shoulder but it was never fully repaired, leaving her swimming in constant pain for two years,” her coach John Fowlie said in a press release with Swimming Australia. “She had a choice, surgery and end her career or push through and basically swim over one million strokes of constant pain to get on that team for Rio. Her final career moments was her swimming for herself, to be able to finish on her own terms and say goodbye to representing Australia and the Dolphins Swim Team in her own way.”
Despite her injury and the pain that came with that, Coutts bounced back from 2015 to compete at the 2016 Australian Olympic Trials. Pushing past a crushing third place finish in the 100 fly, she punched her ticket to Rio with a win in the 200 IM to extend her Olympic legacy for one more go-around.
“I am really happy. I did the best I could in Rio,” Coutts said. “From a little girl who had a dream to be an elite swimmer, to my final race in Rio I wouldn’t change a thing about my career and I am so proud of everything my team and I managed to achieve over the years.”
The kind of determination and grit that Coutts showed as she pushed past adversity in 2015 and 2016 reflects the kind of swimmer she was her entire career.
“Alicia always had such a strong work ethic, in the early days she would come and train and then go to work at night and pour beers to make money,” Fowlie said. “She would work weekends and nights and still come in every morning and give 110% at training, I think she had great values instilled in her from her mum from a very young age. Throughout her career she went from strength to strength and kept looking forward. She learnt how to deal with setbacks and once the flame of belief had been lit, I believe after making her first team in 2008, then there was no stopping her.”
As with most any retirement from the sport, Coutts certainly feels that she owes a lot to the sport and will miss many aspects of it.
“I have spent such a large part of my life on the Australian Swim Team and over the years I have made so many amazing friends and met teammates that have become like family to me,” Coutts said. “It will be sad not to be racing and to not to be a part of this amazing team but I am honoured to have been able to represent my country for such a long time and the Australian Swim Team will forever be a part of my heart. I couldn’t have achieved so much in my career without the unwavering support of my mum (Julie) and my husband, Steve. I want to thank my mum for all the years of sacrifices she made, my husband for his love and support and all of my family and friends for being there for me. I also want to thank my amazing coach John Fowlie who worked with me for ten years and helped me to constantly push my boundaries and expect more from myself. He made me the strong, determined, hard-working and resilient person I am today and he is such an amazing and knowledgeable person and coach, it was such a pleasure to work with him.”
Coutts and her husband Steve are now living in Canberra, where she is working in real estate. She says that she’s excited for her life after swimming. “I have had such an amazing career in sport and feel privileged to have been part of the inner sanctum of the Australian Swim Team, but I am so looking forward to following my other passions in life now, and I can’t wait to see what the future will bring,” she said.
The Swimming Australia Gala Dinner is coming up soon– Coutts is set to be honored there for her achievements in the sport. The dinner is scheduled for November 7th, this upcoming Sunday, at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.