Two-Time El Salvadoran Olympian Marcelo Acosta Announces Retirement

Two-time Olympian Marcelo Acosta, one of the greatest swimmers in El Salvador’s history, announced his retirement from swimming earlier this month in an Instagram post

The 25-year-old distance freestyle specialist is the only El Salvadoran swimmer to qualify for the Olympics with an “A” cut. Acosta’s seven individual national records at the long course level are the most by anyone from his country. 

“Enjoy and cherish every moment of the journey… just like I did!” he wrote. “Be grateful for the opportunities you have been given, the people around you, the good and bad races, the cold pool at 6 a.m. and the forever lasting friends you have made along the way.

“Thank you swimming! It has been one hell of a ride! Onto bigger and better things.”

Acosta’s Instagram bio now lists him as a coach at Cardinal Aquatics, a Bronze Medal Club based out of Louisville, Kentucky. He competed collegiately for the University of Louisville, where he graduated from in 2020. There, he broke school records en route to an ACC title in the 1650-yard free as a sophomore before earning All-American honors as an upperclassman in 2018 and 2019.

Acosta told ElGrafico.com that he reached his decision to retire after talking through it with his trainers, Gianluca Alberani from Azura Florida Aquatics, and Arthur Albiero and Kameron Chastain from the University of Louisville.

“We came to the conclusion of just why go on, every time a year went by I was in automatic mode thinking about the next and the next,” Acosta said. “Now I have bigger duties, I am an American resident, I will have to pay bigger and more important expenses. To be completely honest, it is not an attack on the Salvadoran Swimming Federation (FESNAT), nor on the National Institute of Sports of El Salvador (INDES) nor on the Olympic Committee of El Salvador (COES), but simply the support is not the enough for me to continue competing and training at that level, I need a little more to save for the future. Also at my age it becomes more difficult for me to stay in shape, the body no longer reacts the same.

“I wanted to continue, but after talking with my coaches we saw that it would be something very difficult in which it reaches a point where you give a lot to the sport and you barely receive a quarter of what you gave,” he explained. “If I hit a better mark in the 1500m or 800m all I would get would be a pat on the back, I wouldn’t get any bigger recognition. And the decision was made more with a view to my career as a coach in which I am having a great time.”

Acosta burst onto the international scene at the 2014 Youth Olympics by taking silver in the 800-meter free with his first national record at just 18 years old. After debuting at Louisville during the 2014-15 season, he decided to sit out the following year to prepare for the 2016 Olympics. The move paid off in March of 2016 when Acosta became the first El Salvadoran to achieve an Olympic “A” cut with a 1500 free national record 15:13.09 at the third stop of the Arena Pro Series in Orlando. That summer in Rio, he went on to lower that mark to 15:08.17, placing 22nd. He also placed 22nd in the 400 free with another national record of 3:48.82. His breakout performance earned him the 2016 Swammy Award for Caribbean/Central American Male Swimmer of the Year

At the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, Acosta reset his own El Salvadoran record in the 1500 free again with a 15:04.79 that placed 14th. The following year, he broke the Central America and Caribbean Games record in the 400 free with a 3:50.61, about two seconds off his personal best. He entered into just one event at the 2019 World Championships, the 400 free, and placed 31st. At the Tokyo Olympics last summer, Acosta was more than 22 seconds off his personal best with a 15:27.37 that placed him 25th. 

“I really enjoyed it, a very long career of 20 years,” he said. “I met so many amazing people. It was something so beautiful that it brought me to tears when I made my retirement official. I had a good time and I don’t regret anything. It was a great race.”

El Salvadoran Records Held by Marcelo Acosta

Long Course

  • 800 free – 7:55.70
  • 400 free – 3:48.82
  • 200 free – 1:50.35
  • 100 free – 52.27
  • 200 fly – 2:02.07
  • 400 IM – 4:27.40

Short Course

  • 1500 free – 14:45.78
  • 800 free – 7:49.69
  • 400 free – 3:42.74
  • 200 free – 1:47.00

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1 month ago

I swam next to Marcelo many times throughout his career, including at the 2016 Orlando Pro Swim Series where he earned his 1500 A cut. I still remember him pulling away from me during the last 500 and being unable to catch up! During 2019 NCAA’s, we were in the last afternoon heat and desperately wanted to post a time that would finish in the top 8. He hyped us both up before the race, we posted season bests, and finished sixth and seventh overall, even though I still wasn’t able to catch him during the last 500! He is simultaneously a fierce competitor and an incredibly amiable guy. I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.… Read more »

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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