Becky Adlington retires to focus on encouraging children to swim

Rebecca Adlington announces her retirement from elite swimming, at the tender age of 23

Yesterday when it was announced that her coach Bill Furniss is to take up the head coach role at British Swimming I had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Adlington would change her mind about retiring from the sport she loves.

Sadly it was not to be. Years and years of getting up at 5am to train have taken their toll and, at the tender age of 23, she is to hang up her goggles and swim cap. At a press conference today she confirmed that she is to retire (a word she hates), citing the fact that she is finding it increasingly difficult to compete with the younger swimmers coming through.

“I did feel old at 23, female distance swimming is getting a lot younger as was evident in London,” Adlington told reporters today. “I can’t compete with that and can’t do the same level of work. I need a lot more rest and recovery. I think it was the perfect time.”

It’s a real shame but swimming is a particularly brutal sport, it seems. Training is tough, requiring vast amounts of mental discipline as well as physical strength. And, at least for female distance swimmers,  it is difficult to compete at an elite level into your 20s. Of course that’s not to say Adlington doesn’t have anything left to offer the sport that helped propel her to global stardom after the 2008 Beijing Olympics in which she won two Olympic Gold medals.

One of the sad facts about the sport is how many children are unable to swim. Despite the fact that swimming is a compulsory part of the national curriculum many schools either don’t offer swimming lessons for children or simply offer them for a single term a year which is often not enough. There is evidence to suggest that parents too share some of the blame, not taking children to the swimming pool as much as they used to. As a result one third of kids leave Primary School unable to swim a length of a standard pool (25m). See story here.

Rebecca in the pool

A press statement on her website reads:  “I’m very proud of what I have achieved so far, but my journey is not finished yet. My vision is that every child in Britain will be able to swim 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. Being able to swim is such a wonderful life skill, and I see this as my greatest challenge in swimming.”

Becky aims to achieve her vision through her Becky Adlington’s SwimStars initiative, which she has been working on for the last two years. This will involve establishing her learn to swim programs in leisure centres, hotel pools and school pools across the country. Becky will soon be a fully qualified Level 1 and 2 swimming teacher, and will instill her key values of respect, friendship, courage and persistence into her teaching programs.