Double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington has confirmed her retirement from competitive swimming.
The 23-year-old's future has been the subject of much debate since she claimed two bronze medals at the London Olympics last summer.
At a press conference today in London, the Mansfield-born swimmer confirmed she was bringing to an end a glittering career that has brought her Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth titles.
End of the lane: Adlington announces her retirement and (below) after the press conference with her father Steve and mother Kay
Olympics: Two gold; two bronze
World Championships: Two gold, two silver, two bronze
Commonwealth Games: Two gold, two bronze
European Championships: One gold, one silver, one bronze
British Championships: 13 gold, three silver, two bronze
'I hate the word retire. I love swimming but as a competitive element and elite athlete I won't compete any more.
'I'll always be swimming even when I am 90 years old.'
She added: 'I certainly can't compete with that (younger swimmers).
'I can't do the same level of work, I need far more time for recovery.
'It's time. Beijing changed my entire life, everyone wanted to learn about me. It was the best moment of my entire career.
Double trouble: Rebecca Adlington won two gold medals in Beijing in 2008
'I am so glad my world record still stands.'
Adlington paid tribute to her family and her coach Bill Furniss, who became British Swimming's head coach yesterday.
She added: 'I couldn't have done it without my family. Even my sisters, they helped me with my homework.
'Bill is the biggest thing....he has helped me as an athlete as much as a person.
Teary end: Adlington had to settle for two bronze medals in London last year
'Now I've not got Bill without me, I feel a little bit lost.
'The medals - they are not just mine - they are my family's, Bill's.
'I think he is going to do such a brilliant job (as GB head coach).'
Now Adlington is looking to leave her own legacy by setting up programmes with a dream that each child in Britain can learn to swim.
Furniss guided Adlington to her first senior international medal in the 800m freestyle at the 2006 European Championships although that year saw her miss out on the Commonwealth Games.
End of the lane: Adlington will be remembered as one of Britain's finest
The following year was a difficult one with a 10th-placed finish at the World Championships but at the Olympic trials in 2008 she marked herself out as a real contender.
Few, though, would have predicted such an outcome.
With victory in the 400m freestyle, the Nova Centurion athlete became the first British swimmer to win Olympic gold since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988 and, significantly, the first British woman since Anita Lonsbrough triumphed in Rome in 1960.
The 800m was astonishing, Adlington taking more than two seconds off Janet Evans' world record which had stood for more than 20 years.
Honoured: Adlington with the OBE she received from the Queen
Double gold saw Adlington become the most successful British swimmer of the modern era, the first since Henry Taylor in 1908 to win two golds at a single Games.
Her joy in China contrasted with her devastation just a year later after finishing fourth in the longer race at the World Championships in Rome.
She soon acknowledged she had not done the endurance training required for distance swimming because of all the invitations that had come her way since Beijing.
Adlington has always maintained she learns more from her lows than her highs and after that, world, European and Commonwealth titles rolled in - testament to her drive, single-mindedness and talent.
British Olympic Association chairman Sebastian Coe led the tributes to Adlington after she confirmed her retirement.
Coe said: 'Becky Adlington's unforgettable success in Beijing inspired a generation to get in the pool and swim.
Praise: Lord Sebastian Coe led the tributes to Adlington after she retired from swimming
'Her down-to-earth personality and remarkable career achievements have made her a national treasure.
'Becky's vision for the future of grass-roots swimming in this country will create a wonderful legacy from one of our greatest Olympians.
'I have no doubt this vision will be pursued with the same drive, dedication and determination as Becky consistently displayed in the pool.'
Adlington's coach and mentor Bill Furniss, appointed head coach by British Swimming yesterday, tweeted: "Proud to have been Rebecca's coach the same qualities that made her the best ever will ensure success in everything she does.'
And Adlington's Great Britain team-mate Keri-anne Payne tweeted: 'So unbelievably proud of @BeckAdlington and honoured to have been on some of your journey with you. I miss you already!! xxxxx #legend."
Stephen Parry, who won a 200m butterfly bronze at the 2000 Athens Olympics, told BBC Radio 5 Live he understood the timing of Adlington's decision.
Team-mates: Keri-Anne Payne tweeted her support of Adlington after her announcement
He said: 'Becky said in the press conference she has done everything she could in the sport. She felt she couldn't take it on at two distance events at the age of 27.
'I think she has made the right decision. She is happy with what she has done in the sport.'
Duncan Goodhew, who won gold and bronze breaststroke medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics, told BBC Radio 5 Live: 'When she broke the world record in Beijing at 19 it was an astounding performance. How could she improve on that?'
BOA chief executive Andy Hunt said: 'Through her remarkable talent and tireless work ethic, Becky Adlington has set a standard of excellence that future generations of Team GB athletes will aspire to reach.
'She represents the very best of what British sport, and the Olympic Movement, are all about. As Becky transitions now into a new phase of her career, we wish her the very best for continued success, and congratulate her on her remarkable career with Team GB.'
REBECCA ADLINGTON FACT FILE
1989: Born February 17, Mansfield.
2004: Wins gold in the 800 metres freestyle at the European Junior Championships.
2006: Makes senior international debut in European Championships in Budapest and wins silver in the 800m freestyle, a performance she rates as her 'finest swim'.
2007: Finishes 10th in the 800m freestyle in the World Championships in Melbourne.
2008: April: Sets a Commonwealth record of eight minutes 19.22 seconds in the heats of the 800m at the British Olympic trials in Sheffield, smashing Sarah Hardcastle's 1986 mark by more than five seconds. It was also the fastest time in the world that year.
The following week wins 800m gold at the World Short Course Championships as British swimmers enjoy a hugely successful competition in front a home crowd in Manchester. Records a time of 8:08.25 to finish more than four seconds ahead of Australian Kylie Palmer.
Also swims the anchor leg in the 4x200m freestyle relay as Britain's quartet are pipped to gold by the Dutch team who set a new world record of 7:38.90.
July: Breaks her own British and Commonwealth record in the 400m freestyle on the final day of the National Championships in Liverpool. Her time of 4:02.80 makes her the third fastest woman in 2008 over the distance and fourth fastest in history.
August 11: Wins gold medal in the 400m freestyle at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Britain's first women's medal in the pool for 24 years.
August 16: Becomes a double gold medallist - Britain's first woman double gold medallist in swimming - by winning the 800m freestyle in a world record time of 8:14.10.
2009: Presented with an OBE announced before the New Year. Wins a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle at the World Championships and another in the 4x200m relay team.
2010: August: Devastated to finish seventh in the 800m at the European Championships but bounces back to win the 400m.
2010: October: In the Commonwealth Games, Adlington wins golds in the 400m and 800m freestyle and bronzes in the 200m and 4x200m freestyles.
2011: Claims silver in the 400m freestyle behind world record holder Federica Pellegrini at the World Championships in Shanghai. She had only just scraped into the final and was second despite feeling "like a zombie". Adlington secured victory in the 800m after edging out defending champion Lotte Friis after a stroke-for-stroke duel.
2012: Claims the Olympic bronze medal in the 400m freestyle and 800m freestyle at London 2012.
2013: January 30: Confirms she will make a "major announcement" at a press conference in London.
February 5: Announces her retirement from competitive swimming.
BEST OF BRITISH
With the announcement of her retirement from competitive swimming today, Rebecca Adlington brought to an end a glittering career with two Olympic titles and four Games medals in total.
By the grand old age of 23, the Mansfield-born swimmer had won titles at Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth level.
Here, Sportsmail looks at where her achievements stand among Britain's best swimmers.
ANITA LONSBROUGH: Before Adlington's success in Beijing, Lonsbrough was the last British woman to have won an Olympic title. The York-born swimmer had only just turned 19 when she won the 200m breaststroke in Rome in 1960 in a new world record time. Lonsbrough went on to win medals at European and Commonwealth level and competed at two Games, coming seventh in the 440m individual medley in Tokyo in 1964.
HENRY TAYLOR: The most successful British swimmer in history, Taylor won five medals across three Olympics. The Lancashire-born athlete won three golds in London in 1908 in the 400m, 1500m and 4x200m freestyle. Taylor then won bronze in the 4x200m relay at both the 1912 and 1920 Games.
DAVID WILKIE: The Scot first came to public attention when he won bronze in the 200m breaststroke at the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. Wilkie then claimed silver over four lengths at the 1972 Olympics in Munich before going one better four years later to win gold in Montreal as well as silver in the 100m. Wilkie also secured three World, two European and two Commonwealth titles.
ADRIAN MOORHOUSE: The Bradford swimmer had already won European and Commonwealth breaststroke titles before competing in his first Olympics in 1984. However, despite being tipped for a 100m breaststroke medal he came fourth and considered his future in the sport. He chose to carry on and claimed two further European titles and Commonwealth gold before realising his potential and securing Olympic gold in the 100m breaststroke in Seoul in 1988. He went on to take more European and Commonwealth titles as well as silver at the 1991 World Championships before retiring following his eighth place at the 1992 Olympics.
DUNCAN GOODHEW: Millfield-educated Goodhew enjoyed a relatively short career but one that was characterised by success. A European medley relay bronze in 1977 was replicated at the following year's World Championships with three silver medals the same year at the Commonwealth Games. Goodhew then claimed gold in the 100m breaststroke at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow with a bronze in the medley relay.
JUDY GRINHAM: Grinham too had a short but successful career. The teenager produced a shock in 1956 when against the odds she won the 100m backstroke at the Melbourne Olympics. It was the first medal by a British woman in 32 years with compatriot Margaret Edwards in third. The next time British women claimed gold and bronze in one event was when Adlington and Jo Jackson repeated the feat in the 400m freestyle in Beijing. Double Commonwealth success, and a bronze, followed in 1958 with four European medals - including one gold - in the same year. Grinham retired at her peak and was awarded the MBE in 2007.