During a press conference on February 5th where Rebecca Adlington announced that her competitive career was coming to an end, she was very reluctant to use the word retire when it comes to swimming, “I hate the word retired,” said Adlington.
“I will never retire from swimming in general. I love swimming and it is always something I will continue to do.”
Since she has made it clear that she will never abandon the sport she loves Adlington is determined to have more people join her in the pool. In the next stage of her life she will focus her efforts and determination towards the goal of having every child in the UK being able to swim upon completion of primary school.
“I have been involved in Learn To Swim through my sponsors Speedo and British Gas over the years. It’s now natural for me to take my own steps into Learn To Swim.”
“My vision and goal is that every child in the UK should leave primary school being able to swim 25 metres. Ambitious I know, but I believe I can use my profile and passion, and a lot of hard work, to achieve this vision. It will be my biggest ever challenge in swimming. I never thought five years ago I would have four Olympic medals, so I know if you work hard and love something enough anything can happen.”
“I’m very excited to step into the next chapter and adventure by launching Becky Adlington’s SwimStars. I will be partnering with a leading UK leisure centre operator as well as hotel groups, schools and councils. While I hope I’ve left an legacy for the next generation of British swim stars, I want my biggest legacy to be no child in Britain leaving primary school unable to swim 25 metres.”
Adlington has been an inspiration to children and swimmers in the UK since 2008 when she won Olympic Gold in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle. British Olympic Association Chair Lord Sebastian Coe stated that fact with great conviction, “Becky Adlington’s unforgettable success in Beijing inspired a generation to get in the pool and swim,” said Coe.
“Her down to earth personality and remarkable career achievements have made her a national treasure. Becky’s vision for the future of grass roots swimming in this country will create a wonderful legacy from one of our greatest Olympians. I have no doubt this vision will be pursued with the same drive, dedication and determination as Becky consistently displayed in the pool.”
Adlington who was the first British woman to win Olympic gold since Anita Lonsbrough in 1960, set a new standard for British swimming.
In the years between Beijing and London Adlington experienced great success winning the 800 freestyle at the 2011 World Championships and collecting gold in both the 400 and 800 freestyle at the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Going into the London Olympics much was expected of Adlington; although she did not achieve what many thought she should she was extremely proud of her accomplishments, winning bronze in both the 400 and 800 freestyle, “I gave it my absolute all and I’m sorry that I didn’t get the gold for everyone that was expecting me to,” Adlington told The Telegraph in London.
“But I am so proud and pleased to get a bronze medal – it’s nothing ever to be embarrassed about. I hate it when people say that silver or bronze is losing because you have not done my sport.”
“Swimming is one of the hardest sports to medal at. We’re not like other sports. It is so, so difficult and I hope the public realise this this week and hopefully will be proud of me for getting that bronze.”
Adlington will be walking away from her competitive career at the age of 23, an age that she now feels may be too old to compete with the next generation of female swimmers, “Female distance swimming is going a lot, lot younger. Female swimming in general is getting younger and in loads of different events in London – the 100 breaststroke, the 400 medley – they were all 15 and 16-year-old girls who were winning.
“I certainly can’t compete with that. I’ve noticed over the years that I can’t do the same level of work as I used to be able to do and I need a lot more rest and recovery. It was just time to go. It was natural and I’ve achieved everything that I wanted to achieve.”
As usual Adlington showed great class by posting a statement on her website thanking the many people who helped her during her swimming career including, sports psychologist Simon Middlemas, sport scientist Michael Peyrebrune, gym trainers Barry Winch and Andy Hall, agent Rob Woodhouse, all of her teachers and coaches, everyone in Mansfield, her sponsors (British Gas, Speedo, Cadbury, BMW and IHG), supporters and fans, family, friends and her wonderful boyfriend and her many teammates throughout the years.
She saved some very special words for a man she calls her second father, “Last but not least to my coach Bill (Furniss). What a great team we made, over 10 years! I will never be able to thank you enough for everything. You’ve helped me so much as an athlete but also as a person. You’ve guided me and helped me become the person I am today. You are the best coach in the world. You are incredibly professional and talented, but your passion and love for the sport is so evident. You’ve always pushed me to the max. I don’t even have to tell you things now as you just know. I have four Olympic medals at home now which would not of been possible if I was with any other coach. They will always be yours as well as mine.”
“I wish you all the luck in the world with your new role within British Swimming as Head Coach. To me though you’ll always be like a second dad to me. The hardest part of leaving competitive swimming was not working alongside you anymore and having you guiding me.”
But everyone should remember Adlington is not retiring, “I am definitely not retired. I will always be swimming even when I am 90 years old.”