Five-time Olympic champion swimmer Missy Franklin has announced that she is retiring from the sport age 23 after struggling with injuries.
Franklin wrote in a letter posted to ESPN that she has been suffering from chronic shoulder pain for the last 2 ½ years, which has affected her swimming. Franklin, who at age 17 became the first woman to win four gold medals in a single Olympics for any sport in 2012, wrote that she knew “something was wrong” with her body in 2015 when she was preparing for the 2016 Olympic Games.
“It took me a long time to say the words, ‘I am retiring,'” Franklin wrote. “A long, long time. But now I’m ready. I’m ready to not be in pain every day. I’m ready to become a wife, 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. I’m ready for the rest of my life.”
The swimmer is engaged to Hayes Johnson, a former Texas swimmer.
She won six golds at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona in what would be her last major international success. She chose to go to college and enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, where she helped the Golden Bears win the 2015 NCAA championship despite having a back injury.
Four months before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games she withdrew from a meet with shoulder pain and later revealed she was struggling with depression, anxiety and insomnia. In Rio, she failed to make the finals.
Franklin said she underwent surgery in 2017 on her right and left shoulders. However, the pain never completely subsided. Earlier this year, she enrolled at the University of Georgia but was never able to regain the form she displayed as a teenager.
Franklin concluded her letter by saying swimming did not define her and there were other things she would like to do in her life. She thanked her fans, her coaches, family, friends and her sponsors.
“This is by no means the end. Rather, I choose to look at this as a new beginning,” she wrote.
Franklin is the current world record holder in the 200m backstroke and won 27 career medals in international competition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.