By Stephen J. Thomas
SYDNEY, July 5. ON the eve of the Australian team's departure for a training camp in Germany in final preparation for the World Champs in Barcelona, 21-year-old Olympic backstroker Clementine Stoney, has announced her retirement from swimming due to protracted illness that has impacted on her performance and ability to recover after periods of intense training. It will be the first major Australian team Stoney she has missed in three years.
In 2002 she had a huge international competitive program, which included World Short Course in Moscow, Mare Nostrum Series in Europe, Commonwealth Games in Manchester and Pan Pacific Games in Yokohama. Stoney ended this marathon program collapsing after finishing out of a place in the final of the 200m backstroke at the Pan Pacs in August. She also had to deal with the dramatic loss of her coach Gennadi Touretski prior to the Commonwealth Games when he was sacked from the Australian Institute of Sport after being charged with assult after a mid-air altercation with airline staff on an international flight.
After Pan Pacs, Stoney had several months out of the pool making a move from the AIS in Canberra to Sydney to train with coach Brian Sutton at Sydney University. However, her attempt to swim back to competitive fitness while recovering from post-viral syndrome has proved unsuccessful and she has made the decision to retire.
An understandably disappointed Stoney told SwimInfo: "I love swimming however I don't wish to continue if I am not going to be able to compete at my best. As an athlete you want to overcome obstacles and push through things that lie in your way, but when it’s your health a stake you need to have perspective. I now hope to achieve in other areas and pursue interests outside of the pool … fashion and possibly modelling and continue with my university studies."
"If I recover fully, in a couple of years I won’t rule out a return to the pool because I know I haven't reached my full potential."
At only 21, Stoney drops out of the sport as one of Australian all-time leading backstrokers – the Australian record-holder in 200m backstroke short course (then a world record), second all-time Aussie over the 100m backstroke short course and second all-time behind Olympic medalist Nicole Livingstone over 200m long course.