By Craig Lord
MANCHESTER, England, March 21. SARAH Price, who in 2001 set a world short-course record in the 200 backstroke, announced her retirement after racing one last time in the very pool that brought her the highlight of a long career for Britain: a double Commonwealth backstroke crown in 2002.
The 25-year-old, originally from Enfield and latterly of Loughborough, received flowers from coach Ian Turner as she said farewell to the sport after finishing second in the 100 back at the trials here.
Since 1994, Price has won 11 European and Commonwealth medals and raced at two Olympic Games. But with a new generation hurtling through the ranks, she believes it to be the right time to "start the second phase of my life while still at the top of my game".
"I thought about the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year," she said. "But I knew in my heart that I could not achieve what I did in Manchester in 2002. The will and pasison are still there but the body has had enough and can't do the kind of work you need to do to be a champion."
Price's high standards helped her decision to quit: "I don't want to just be a member of the British Swimming team. I want to win medals, challenge for titles and be as competitive as I can. It means a lot to me to finish in front of my family and friends, the coaches, Doug Campbell, Rhys Gormley and Ian Turner, who have helped me over the years, sponsors, supporters and the public who contribute through the lottery."
Price's passion for swimming was first ignited as a 10-year-old when she moved to America with her parents and began to excel in one of the toughest swimming environments.
"I came back to Britain aged 12, joined Potters Bar before moving to Barnett Copthall where I met my first real coach in the brilliant Doug Campbell. Thirteen years on and I've met so many fantastic people through the sport and have friends for life. I've learned a lot from the coaches I've worked with such as Ian Turner. He's taught me a lot about myself and this will be invaluable as I look towards the next stage of my life."
"I have lots of fantastic memories from swimming but two really stick out and that's my world record in 2001 and my two Commonwealth titles in 2002. The whole week at the Commonwealths was amazing, I just got faster as the week wore on and set a host of new records as well. The 200 backstroke world record (short-course) had stood for six years before I broke it in Australia in 2001. It was very special for me as I'd always dreamt of holding a world record."
As in every sporting career the highs sometimes make way to the lows and Price's biggest disappointment of her career will be her two Olympic adventures.
"My Olympics were certainly the lowest points. In Sydney I suffered from food poisoning leading up to the event and had not regained my strength when I came to race. I was devastated again in Athens four years on when I gashed my shin deeply on an underwater camera when I was getting ready to compete. It really knocked me about."
Price believes the next generation of British swimmers, however, will soon step up to fill the space she leaves behind and it is a group of athletes she is very excited about.
"They're doing some unbelievable things for their age. I look at what they're achieving at 14 and you just know they're going to be very successful in Beijing and beyond. My message to those swimmers is to always look at the positives whenever they are down and to make the most of the incredible chances that are available to them. I never had the chance to what they are doing now and it will make a big difference. They should jump at any and every opportunity that is handed to them."
Coach Ian Turner paid tribute to Price while reflecting on her impressive career.
"Pricey has been a fantastic servant to swimming and has done extremely well during her time with the sport. As well as the many medals won she's set over 45 British, European and Commonwealth records which is an amazing feat in itself. An extremely valued member of any training group, Pricey brought a lot to the sessions from her work ethic to her enthusiasm and bubbly personality."
"There's a side to her that few people see and that is her generosity and thoughtfulness. For the last couple of years she's trained with lads and she gave so much to that group."