Missy Franklin is hanging up her swim cap.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist announced Wednesday that she has retired from professional swimming in a letter to ESPNW.
“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.”
Franklin, 23, became an Olympic favorite at the 2012 London Olympics not just for her talent, but for her sweet and outgoing personality. In London, she became the first American woman to win four golds in one sport.
After her success in London, Franklin went to the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, where she won six more gold medals. It was expected that she would repeat her dominance at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“The first 18 years of my career were as picture perfect as it can get. The equation couldn’t have made more sense: you work hard, you have a positive attitude, you show up every day and give your best, and you get faster,” Franklin wrote. “That’s how it worked for me. I worked harder, I trained harder and I swam faster, year after year after year. Following the 2012 Olympics, I decided to remain an amateur and swim in college, and it is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Swimming at the University of California, Berkeley was one of the greatest honors and privileges I’ve had as an athlete and a person.”
In 2015, Franklin was plagued by a back injury and she experienced severe shoulder pain four months before heading to Rio. While Franklin’s time in Rio was disappointing — her only medal was from the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and she failed to qualify for he 200-meter freestyle and the 200 back — she said she was proud of herself for “surviving” Rio due to several personal issues.
“I’ve been very open about what I went through as I prepared for the Olympics in 2016 and talked openly about the struggles I endured, which included shoulder pain whenever I tried to train or compete, depression, anxiety and insomnia,” Franklin wrote. “… 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.”
Franklin was diagnosed with severe chronic tendinitis of the rotator cuff and bicep and had surgery on both her shoulders in 2017, though the pain didn’t fully go away.
She said her decision to end her career wasn’t taken lightly, and she doesn’t want to have to undergo more surgeries that aren’t guaranteed to work.
“This is by no means the end. Rather, I choose to look at this as a new beginning,” she wrote. “Swimming has been, and always will be, a big part of my life and I absolutely plan to stay involved in what I believe is the best sport in the world, just in a different way. I hope to continue to inspire others to be their best, both in and out of the pool, and I’m truly excited about this next chapter and how my relationship with the sport will continue to change and grow.”