Five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin retires at 23

Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin sits down with USA TODAY Sports to discuss her past Olympic experience and her road ahead to Rio.

Missy Franklin, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time FINA World Swimmer of the Year, announced her retirement from swimming.

Franklin, 23, whose four gold medals and outgoing personality made her the darling of the 2012 London Olympics, cited chronic shoulder pain she has battled since April 2016 as the impetus for her decision.

“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 shows off her gold medal with an American flag during the ceremony for the Women’s 100m Backstroke at the 2012 London Olympics.

In London, the 17-year-old Franklin became the first American woman to win four golds in a single Olympics in any sport. She followed that performance by winning six gold medals at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona.

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There was the talk of Franklin dominating the sport the way Michael Phelps ruled men’s swimming — no one could have predicted they would be the last individual gold medals of Franklin’s career.

In Rio, the physical and emotional challenges hampered Franklin’s performance. She failed to qualify for the finals in either of the two individual events she had qualified for: the 200-meter freestyle and the 200 back. She won her only medal, a gold, by swimming the preliminary heat of the 4×200-meter freestyle relay.

In what would turn out to be the last race of her career, Franklin finished third in the “C” final of the 200-meter freestyle at the U.S. National Championships in Irvine in July.

Her time of 1:59.15 was more than four seconds off her personal best in 2013. Afterward, an emotional Franklin gave no indication it might be the end, instead insisting she would do everything she could to try to earn a spot on the 2020 Olympic team at trials in Omaha, Nebraska.

She retires as the current world record holder in the 200-meter backstroke (2:04.06) and the winner of 27 medals in international competition.

“This is by no means the end,” Franklin wrote. “Rather, I choose to look at this as a new beginning. Swimming has been, and always will be, a big part of my life and I absolutely plan to stay involved in what I feel is the best sport in the world, just in a different way.”

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