Australia's former Olympic champ Rice bids adieu to swimming
Australia's triple Olympic gold medallist Stephanie Rice announced her retirement from competitive swimming at the age of 25 on Wednesday.
Rice had a brilliant Olympic debut at Beijing's Water Cube in 2008, winning the 200 and 400 metres individual medley titles as well as gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay, all in world record times.
She struggled with a shoulder injury heading into the 2012 London Olympics, where her failure to win a medal contributed to a disappointing Games for Australia.
She has not raced competitively since and on Wednesday announced on her website that she would not be returning to the pool.
Image: Stephanie Rice of Australia
Photographs: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
'I never wanted to make a comeback'
"I knew that I really had to take the time for myself to get to the point where I knew 100 percent what I wanted to do," Rice said in a video posted on the website.
"And I never wanted to make a comeback, so the decision that I wanted to make was definitely final and coming to that point today and not continuing my swimming career is, it's sad.
"Like I definitely feel I'm losing a part of myself but I'm really excited for what's to come."
Image: Stephanie Rice attends the 'I Support Women In Sport'
Photographs: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images
Permanent fixture in gossip magazines
Rice hit the headlines as a 19-year-old when she set world records at the 2008 national trials in the lead up to Beijing, and her relationship with fellow swimmer Eamon Sullivan ensured she was a fixture in gossip magazines.
Her triple Olympic triumph in China cemented her status as one of Australia's leading sportswomen and saw her carry the country's flag at the closing ceremony.
"Going to Beijing and competing and coming home with three golds and three world records was a complete shock and the best moment that I could have ever experienced," she added.
Image: Stephanie Rice arrives at The Ivy
Photographs: Marianna Massey/Getty Images
'London was really tough'
Rice signed a string of sponsorship deals after her Beijing success, only to lose one with a luxury car manufacturer after she posted a homophobic tweet in the wake of an Australia rugby victory over South Africa in 2010.
She made a tearful apology for the tweet but that was not the only stumble on the road to London, with persistent shoulder problems forcing her to swim through constant pain at her second Games.
Rice made the final of both medley events but failed to medal and her disappointment was compounded when China's Ye Shiwen smashed her 400m medley world record to win gold.
"London was really tough," she said. "There were so many things that went wrong for me in that preparation and it was like I was trying so hard to make everything so perfect and everything went wrong."
Image: Stephanie Rice
Photographs: Jonathan Wood /Getty Images
Fellow athletes and sporting bodies issued a stream of tributes on social media on Wednesday for Rice, who also won two silver and five bronze medals at three world championships.
"Congratulations (on) an outstanding career! 1 of 7 Aussies to win 3 gold at 1 Games," the Australian Olympic Committee tweeted.
"At #London2012 your guts to finish 4th and 5th after shoulder surgery was an inspiration. Well done Stephanie Rice, good luck for future endeavours!"
Image: Stephanie Rice
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images