Three-time Australian Olympian Eamon Sullivan has succumbed to a shoulder injury and announced his retirement at the age of 28.
Sullivan, who is a former World Record holder in the 50 and 100 free, had earned a spot on this year’s Commonwealth Games team, but pulled out with the injury to seek further treatment. He was replaced there in the 50 free by Matthew Abood.
According to Swimming Australia, Sullivan has since received medical advice to not shoot for a fourth Olympics in 2016.
“I think Eamon surprised a lot of people winning the 50m freestyle at Trials this year and gaining selection for the Commonwealth Games team, but that’s just really a testament to the quality of athlete that he is,” said Swimming Australia Performance Director Michael Scott. “Having not swum since London 2012, and then to be able to produce a world class performance like he did, really showed just how hard he had been working and his professionalism.”
Sullivan’s best international meet came at the 2008 Olympic Games, where he won silvers in the 100 free and 400 medley relay, plus a bronze in the 400 free relay. In addition, he has three World Championship medals (2 gold, 1 bronze), five Commonwealth Games medals (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze), and four Pan Pacs medals (1 silver, 3 bronze).
The Perth native has also built a celebrity outside of the pool, including winning the first season of the reality cooking show Celebrity MasterChef Australia and posing for a national campaign for an underwear line with then-girlfriend Stephanie Rice.
Sullivan earned his official Australian Swimming “number,” which each athlete gets as an honor when they make their first major international team, at the 2004 Commonwealth Games, earning him a 601. At that same meet, Marieke Guehrer (#596) also earned her stripes, and as far as we can tell, those are the two lowest numbers still active in elite swimming meaning that Sullivan’s retirement that Australia has lost not only its best 50 freestyle according to 2014 result, but its most experienced male swimmer.
In a period where Australia is trying to figure out how to improve the performances of their men’s teams, and specifically consistency, at international meets, experience will not be an easy suit to fill.