Olympic Swimmer Retires for Best Possible Reason

Photo via: Robert Stanton/USA Today Sports Images

She broke the news via an open letter on December 19, ending her career as a professional athlete. Missy Franklin, Olympic swimmer and role model for many, is retiring.

In her letter, the 23-year-old, five-time Olympic gold medalist cited her upcoming marriage and deep desire for family as the primary reason for her decision.

“I began to realize that my greatest dream in life, more so than Olympic gold, has always been becoming a mom,” she writes.

It wasn’t her engagement that got her thinking about her professional future — countless athletes stay in the competitive sphere through engagements, marriages, and long after. Instead, it was something of a perfect storm of chaos that she credits to God’s wisdom.

“I can’t even begin to explain how God’s timing works,” Franklin says, “but all I know is that it is beautiful, perfect and magical.”

After years of physical therapy, stunted training and many medical procedures, the excruciating pain she’d been fighting in her shoulders became overwhelming.  At her doctor’s mention of yet another surgery — not even guaranteed to make any substantial improvement — she sought advice from family and friends. Franklin explains the moment it all fell into place:

“I prayed, and I prayed and I prayed. I talked to the most trusted people in my life. When my now fiancé looked at me and said the following, my answer finally became clear: ‘I will support you fully, no matter what you choose. But what matters to me the most, more than anything, is that you can hold our children in your arms one day without being in excruciating pain.’”

It was the encouragement the Olympic champion needed to take on her most daunting challenge yet: to make the switch from chasing the highly-praised goal of athletic success in the public eye to pursuing the humble — and often outright mocked — aspiration of family life, far from the limelight.

The magnitude of her decision is not lost on her. Yet, it is precisely those for which she’s retiring who strengthen her resolve to defy celebrity norms and prioritize her familial endeavors.

Still, while she may be leaving the world stage for the time being, but she certainly won’t leave the pool entirely.

“Swimming had been such a huge part of my life for as long as I could remember, but it was not my entire life. I still have dreams, goals, aspirations and intentions I plan on living out every day of my life. I will never be able to express in words how grateful I am for swimming… 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,” the young woman insists.

“It took me a long time to say the words, ‘I am retiring.’ 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 and, 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.”

— CCL Staff Member