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British swimmer Rebecca Adlington retires at 23

Feb 5, 2013, 2:43 PM EST

Rebecca Adlington Getty Images

British swimmer Rebecca Adlington joined swimming’s list of retirees on Tuesday when she announced her decision to stop swimming at the competitive level.

The 23-year-old said distance swimming is in the hands of the younger generation now. She’s right about that: 15-year-old American Katie Ledecky won the 800m freestyle at last summer’s London Olympics, while Adlington finished third.

Adlington also earned a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle. She won both events at the Beijing Games.

“I have achieved everything I wanted to,” said Adlington, who many British fans simply call ‘Becky.’ “Some people want to milk it all they can. I’ve always said I wanted to finish on a high, despite my love of the sport.

“I did feel old at 23, female distance swimming is going a lot younger as was evident in London,” she added. “I can’t compete with that and can’t do the same level of work. I need a lot more rest and recovery. I think it was the perfect time.”

Adlington, who took time after the London Olympics to ride a bicycle across the African nation Zambia for charity, wants to help grow the sport of swimming in Great Britain.

“My vision is that every child in Britain will be able to swim 25 meters by the time they leave primary school,” she said. “Being able to swim is such a wonderful life skill, and I see this as my greatest challenge in swimming.”

Adlington’s retirement news reached the U.S., where Michael Phelps – who is probably still celebrating the Baltimore Ravens’ victory in the Super Bowl – weighed in: “Our paths have crossed many times over the years … Her accomplishments speak for themselves, she has been a great representative for British Swimming and the sport overall. I congratulate her on a fantastic career and wish her all the best in the future.”