Much was made of Rebecca Adlington’s decision to retire from competitive swimming at the age of 23... it does seem very young but I should point out that I haven’t swum competitively since I was eight. Plenty has been said and written about the achievements of this young woman, but I’m going to add a few words of my own.
Any athlete that reaches the top of their chosen sport or event will almost certainly have been blessed with a natural talent, but what the spectator or viewer sees is the simply the culmination of years of training, dedication, determination and sacrifice – all concentrated into the performance(s) that will ultimately define that athlete. Delivering in minutes what you have practiced for years is what makes a true champion – and Rebecca Adlington is undeniably a champion.
History tends to remember winners and in Beijing 2008, Rebecca won two gold medals. The first was so dramatic that it had me shouting at the television and the many interviews that followed her success revealed a wonderful personality behind that incredible desire and will to win. With London 2012 looming, the British press did what it does so well and hung medals round several necks long before the Games even started. The pressure that comes from such media-generated public expectation must be unbelievably difficult to cope with... bearing in mind that this is in addition to all the training and preparation for such a massive event.
Four years is a long time in swimming terms and girls who weren’t even teenagers in 2008 were now mature and strong enough to challenge for Olympic glory. Rebecca may not have won gold in London, but her two bronze medals were a brilliant achievement. The tears that followed, both during interviews and on the podium were an emotional release that surely affected many of the viewing millions. Rebecca owed the public nothing. What she saw as “failure” was in the eyes of many a fantastic success – something to celebrate and of which she should be extremely proud.
Now the future beckons and even though we might not see her winning any more medals in the pool, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of this very special young lady. Congratulations Rebecca and good luck!
All my own work... almost.