By Nick Hope
BBC Olympic sports reporter
- 26 Feb
- From the section Swimming
Double Olympic silver medallist Jazz Carlin will not race at the Tokyo 2020 Games after retiring at the age of 28.
Carlin made her international debut for Great Britain when she was just 15 and also won European, Commonwealth and world medals during her career.
The Welsh swimmer missed London 2012 with glandular fever.
Despite being left “drained” by her 400m and 800m freestyle medals at Rio 2016 she then switched her focus to 10km open water events.
However, following subsequent injury and illness struggles Carlin has now decided to end her professional career.
“It’s been a really tough, emotional decision and I’ve been in tears looking back at old videos of my races, but it feels like the right time to stop,” she told BBC Sport.
“It’s just been an incredible journey and something I’ll cherish forever.”
A ‘dream’ career of highs and lows
Carlin claimed an impressive total of 16 major international honours during her career, and she says the 800m freestyle title she claimed at Glasgow 2014 holds a particularly special place in her heart.
It ended a 40-year-wait for a female Welsh Commonwealth swimming gold medal in the pool.
“Being able to stand on top of the podium, hearing the Welsh anthem and bringing a medal home for my country was really special,” said Carlin, who was the flag bearer for Wales at the 2018 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony.
“It gave me the belief I could compete against the best and really helped me get to the Olympics and achieve what I did there.”
‘I didn’t want to get out of bed’
Upon announcing her switch from pool to open water swimming, Carlin revealed that her exertions at Rio 2016 had left her “numb” and stated that she felt she “lacked purpose” in life after achieving her dream of two Olympic medals.
However, she now says the psychological toll was much more serious.
“After Rio I really struggled to adjust mentally which I know sounds weird because of what I won, but no one prepares you for what to do if you achieve everything you’ve ever wanted to,” she says.
“When I got back home normal life didn’t feel normal anymore.
“I don’t talk about this very much but there was a time I didn’t really come out of my bedroom, I’d stay in bed all day and didn’t even want to open the curtains.”
Open water swimming was to be her “new focus” and despite worrying a fear of jellyfish could be a problem, there were other unexpected challenges she faced.
“Although I love swimming in the open water, I’m not a physical knuckles kind of person and the physicality just didn’t suit my personality,” she says.
“I did a World Cup in September and hadn’t been healthy due to a stomach bug and I just thought ‘why am I putting my body through this?’
“Tokyo was a target and I needed to think about whether I was all-in, but after a couple of months out I know stepping away is the right thing to do.”
Carlin an ‘inspiration’ – Olympic champion Adlington
Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington was Carlin’s 400m and 800m freestyle predecessor in the British team, but the pair competed together for several years and won world 4x200m relay bronze in 2009.
“We were both distance swimmers, trained together a lot and she always had this incredible attitude giving 100% every time she raced which I noticed right from when she burst onto the scene in 2009,” recalls Adlington
“From the disappointment of missing out on London 2012 she’s then smashed it up in Rio and had an incredible career.
“She’s been an inspirational part of the team and I know she’s going to be a massive success at whatever she does now because she has that character.”
The future – Carlin the netballer or triathlete?
During the last few months Carlin has developed a new love of cycling and after encouragement from several triathlete friends is considering trying the sport – although not professionally – in the near future.
She is also looking forward to rediscovering sports she played as a child.
“I want to join the local netball team,” says Carlin, who lives in Bath.
“I was watching the recent quad series on TV and seeing women’s sport there has really inspired me.
“I still want to be involved in swimming, but I’m finding new loves and passions which is really exciting.”
Carlin may no longer be racing, but she is far from finished with the sport and is taking on a new role with Swim Wales, where she will mentor some of the nation’s rising stars and also front their ‘Learn to Swim’ programme.
“It’s quite scary that only 20% of children are in a’ learn to swim’ programme in Wales, which I found a shock because swimming can save your life and needs to be promoted,” she told BBC Sport.
“I’m looking forward to working with the elite development team too and hope I can help as many people achieve their dreams as possible.
“It’s been an emotional decision to stop competing after the highs and lows which have shaped me as a person, but I’m excited about the next chapter now.”
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