LONDON, GBR, February 17. FIVE-TIME Olympic swimmer Alison Sheppard MBE has brought to an end a record breaking international career spanning more than 17 years, per reports from British Swimming.
The 32-year-old Commonwealth Champion announced her retirement yesterday on her return from the New York leg of the FINA World Cup, where she picked up three silvers in the 50m Freestyle, 100m Individual Medley and 50m Breaststroke.
It was a fitting end to a career that saw the Scottish sprinter amass a haul of 16 medals across Commonwealth, World and European Championships.
Sheppard's inclusion in the 2004 Team GB swimming squad embossed her name in the history books as the first swimmer ever to compete in five Olympic Games.
As a 15-year-old she was selected to compete at the 1988 Seoul Olympics before continuing to reach the Olympic standard for Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney and Athens.
However, this feat is just one in a long list of achievements the Milngavie and Bearsden swimmer is suitably proud of.
"I have a lot to be happy with. At the 2000 Olympics I was the only female finalist from the British swimming squad and in 2002 I won Commonwealth gold for Scotland while setting a Commonwealth Record in the 50m Freestyle and all in front of a home crowd in Manchester.
"My MBE, a number one world ranking and winning the FINA World Cup series in 2003 were all very special moments for me also."
Sheppard felt the time was right to bring the curtain down on a career that has delivered a medal at every major meet apart from the Olympics.
"The next Olympics is three-and-a-half years away and I don't think I can keep my motivation as high as it needs to be during that time. It's the only medal missing but the time has come for me to stop. You can never rule out a comeback but maybe that's just holding on to the dream a little longer.
"I want to leave the sport at the right time and in the right way. I'll leave as Commonwealth Champion and in New York at the weekend I had my best meet of the past two years which is the way I want to remember swimming.
"It was a good way to finish off. The Americans made a big deal about it. To get on American TV when finishing your career is some recognition and I must say I liked it.
"The only problem with finishing my last 50m Freestyle was that I wanted to get out of the water and do it all again. It was quite an emotional experience but I don't think it's totally sunk in yet. As the days turn into weeks I know it's going to hit me that I'm not training or competing anymore."
Scottish Swimming Director of Performance Kim Swanwick today lead tributes to one of Britain's most decorated swimmers: "Alison has been a great ambassador for swimming across the world. Her career and achievements are something that we would hope future swimmers will emulate. We wish her well in the future."
Ben Titley, British Head Coach on the 2005 World Cup Series, said: "Alison has produced some fantastic the results over the past 17 years.
"In the twilight of her career she also became a valuable role model to the next generation and to me that's one of her most impressive qualities. Her professionalism and ability come together to teach and motivate others.
"She's passed on her vast knowledge and set the standard for the next generation to aspire to."
Sheppard now plans to study personal training while training to teach swimming.