New York, December 20: Five-time Olympic champion Missy Franklin has announced her retirement from professional swimming at the age of 23.
Franklin was a star of the London 2012 Games, in which she became the first American woman to win four gold medals at a single Olympics - triumphing in the 100 metre backstroke, 200m backstroke, 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley at the age of 17.
However, she has been dogged by injuries in recent years and opted to retire rather than undergo further surgeries.
In a letter to ESPN published on Wednesday, Franklin wrote: "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, 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."
In addition to her five Olympic titles, the last of which was earned in the 4x200m freestyle at Rio 2016, Franklin won 11 world championship golds, six of those coming in Barcelona five years ago.
In her letter, Franklin referenced the mental and physical issues that affected her prior to the Rio Games, adding: "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.
"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 duly had surgery on both of her shoulders in January and February of 2017, but has decided against undergoing further operations having been diagnosed with severe chronic tendonitis of both the rotator cuff and bicep tendon.
"I've been in too much pain, for too long, to go through another surgery with a longer recovery time and no guarantee it would help," she explained.