Missy Franklin retires from swimming

Five-time Olympic gold medallist quits aged 23 after long struggle with chronic shoulder pain.

Five-time Olympic swimming gold medallist Missy Franklin has announced her retirement from swimming.

In a letter to ESPN, the 23-year-old wrote, "I'm ready for the rest of my life."

Aged 17, Franklin gained worldwide attention when she won four golds at London 2012.

She was expected to dominate for years to come, but struggled with shoulder injuries in the lead-up to Rio 2016.

Those physical issues affected her mental health, something she talked about on the Olympic Channel Podcast back in April.

Franklin competed in two of her gold medal events from London, the 200 free and 200 backstroke, but went out in the semi-finals of both.

She did win another gold in Brazil, swimming in the heats as USA took the 4x200m freestyle title, taking her overall medal tally to six.

But she admitted, "Going into Rio I almost felt like I had failed before it even began because if I somehow didn't live up to that same performance I gave in 2012, it would be a disappointment.

"So already going into one of the biggest meets of your life feeling like you've failed was heart-wrenching.

"I really went in there with other people's goals. And that's not why I do this, that's not why I swim and that's not who I am.

"There were some really really tough times and times that I thought I would never get into the pool again.

"Experiencing sadness and disappointment on a level you've never experienced also allows you to experience happiness and joy on a level that you've never experienced either." - Missy Franklin talking to the Olympic Channel Podcast

Missy Franklin with team-mate Maya DiRado after failing to qualify from the 200m backstroke semi-finals at Rio 2016
Missy Franklin with team-mate Maya DiRado after failing to qualify from the 200m backstroke semi-finals at Rio 2016Missy Franklin with team-mate Maya DiRado after failing to qualify from the 200m backstroke semi-finals at Rio 2016

In her letter she said, "Looking back, surviving through those eight days in Rio was the greatest accomplishment of my career.

"I was able to stay true to who I was as much in failure and disappointment as I had been in winning and being the best in the world."

Setbacks and surgery

After suffering with chronic pain, Franklin had operations on both shoulders in early 2017.

Her recovery took longer than expected but it was far from all bad news, as she told ESPN.

"I took the summer off and ended up reconnecting with the man I will be marrying next year.

"I can't even begin to explain how God's timing works, but all I know is that it is beautiful, perfect and magical."

Franklin left the University of California at the turn of the year, starting a psychology degree at the University of Georgia and moving closer to her extended family and future husband.

Earlier this year, she spoke of her hopes of making Tokyo 2020 despite failing to make the national team.

But the shoulder troubles remained, and she made her decision to retire soon after being told at the end of September that more surgery was her only option.

Franklin wrote, "When I heard the word 'surgery', I immediately broke down because I already knew my answer: no.

"I've been in too much pain, for too long, to go through another surgery with a longer recovery time and no guarantee it would even help."

What finally made up her mind was her fiance saying the most important thing to him was that Franklin could "hold our children in your arms one day without being in excruciating pain".

"I began to realise that my greatest dream in life, more so than Olympic gold, has always been becoming a mom." - Missy Franklin in her letter to ESPN

Franklin says she plans to stay involved in swimming - "the best sport in the world"

"I'm ready to not be in pain every day. I'm ready to become a wife and, one day, a mother. I'm ready to continue growing each and every day to be the best person and role model I can be."

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