Aussie Gold Medal Winning Breaststroke Ace Chelsea Hodges Announces Shock Retirement Just Weeks Before Paris Olympic Trials

Chelsea Hodges QLD SC
GOLDEN MOMENT: A moment Chelsea Hodges (right) will cherish forever...celebrating Olympic gold with Emma McKeon (left) and Kaylee McKeown). Photo Courtesy Rob Schumacher.

Aussie Gold Medal Winning Breaststroke Ace Chelsea Hodges Announces Shock Retirement Just Weeks Before Paris Olympic Trials

Australian breaststroke ace, Chelsea Hodges, a member of the Dolphins gold medal winning Olympic medley relay in Tokyo, has today announced her heart wrenching retirement from the sport she loved, just weeks away from the Paris Trials after an agonising career of pain and suffering.

In news that broke from the Gold Coast this morning, the 22-year-old has quit the sport effective immediately – after swimming in pain – doctors advising her she had “run out of breaststroke kicks” after years of chronic back, neck and shoulder surgeries.

Hodges swam a crucial breaststroke leg alongside Emma McKeon (butterfly), Kaylee McKeown (backstroke) and Cate Campbell (freestyle) in Australia’s all conquering foursome that won a dramatic Tokyo gold in Olympic record time, with Campbell touching-out archrivals the USA in a photo finish.

Chelsea Hodges action

ABREAST OF THE TIMES: The style that took Chelsea Hodges to the Australian record in the 50m breaststroke.  Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

The Southport star, who in 2022 again joined McKeon and McKeown alongside Mollie O’Callaghan to win win 4x100m medley relay gold alongside individual bronze in the 50 and 100m breaststroke at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, told the Sydney Morning Herald she has been forced into retirement due to painful hip and back problems which had required three operations in an attempt to rescue her career.

Australian head coach Rohan Taylor has paid tribute to Hodges, describing her relay split in Tokyo as “Phenomenal!”

“Chelsea’s swim contributed to the team being able to take the gold medal,” said Taylor.

“She persevered for so long to make Paris possible, and she went so close, so it is with mixed emotions that I congratulate Chelsea on her wonderful career.

“But she won’t be lost to us at Swimming Australia, she will continue in her role as an assistant to performance support and provide valuable insight to the athlete experience, in and out of the pool.”

From the age of three, Hodges wanted to swim for Australia and started learn-to-swim classes at Biloela, population 6000, in country Queensland (600km north west of. Brisbane) before her family moved to the Gold Coast.

She represented Australia for the first time at the FINA World Junior Championships in Indiana in 2017, and then four years later at the Tokyo Games found herself in elite company as she lined up for the final of the 4x100m medley relay.

“I literally walked behind the blocks (in Tokyo) and I thought to myself, ‘You cannot leave a single part of you in that water because we need it’,” said Hodges, as she relived her greatest memory… “I love to look back on the photos.”

But this cheering her on had no idea the pain and suffering she was going through.

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve been deliberating what my career and the rest of my life looks like; I’ve made the decision to retire from competitive swimming.” Hodges told Sydney Morning Herald Chief swimming writer Tom Decent in a heart-breaking interview.

“I’ve been taking a lot of medical advice. It’s hard … I’ve told my close friends and family.”

Hodges told Decent that since Tokyo, life had not been easy for the swimmer who has battled chronic injuries since she was 13. Doctors said Hodges was growing too quickly.

In 2022, the setbacks continued. Hodges had long COVID, which affected her asthma. Then came a knee injury before a hospitalisation due to low blood sugar levels.

“I always felt like it was one step forward, two steps back,” Hodges told Decent. “It is really hard to find that light at the end of the tunnel.”

Last year, things became worse. A stress fracture in her back forced Hodges out of the water for six weeks. After her next session, she couldn’t walk.

Hodges missed last year’s World Championships due to hip surgery.

“In December, my surgeon said to me that I’d only have so many breaststroke kicks left. I’d done damage to my femur. We needed to make sure that my breaststroke kick lasted until Paris. Unfortunately, I used up all those kicks,” she said.

“It’s very devastating. I went into that appointment with my partner and physio. All three of us sat there and then in the car with my partner, I just burst into tears.

“[Retirement] is not something you think about so early in your career. I definitely knew that something was wrong. You have that invincible attitude that a lot of us athletes have. Hearing those words brought me back to reality.”

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Australia relay team of Kaylee McKeown (AUS), Chelsea Hodges (AUS), Emma McKeon (AUS) and Cate Campbell (AUS) during the medals ceremony for the women's 4x100m medley relay during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

SHOW MEDALS: Chelsea Hodges (second left) on the Tokyo podium with Kaylee McKeown, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

A week before the Australian championships last month, Hodges thought she could still make the Olympic team. Then came the return of the familiar stabbing pain.

It was, according to Hodges, “eight out of 10” pain for the best part of four weeks.

“I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t function as a human. Any basic movement would cause me a lot of pain,” Hodges said. “My hip was the worst it had ever been. I had micro-fracturing of my femur, re-torn the cartilage that got repaired in April. It was more than a mess. I had bone marrow swelling. My MRI was a mess.”

The time had come. Hodges wanted to know what her life would look like if she kept swimming. Was the pain only going to get worse?

Doctors said she would never be pain-free but could end up with limited mobility if she continued swimming. If Hodges fell pregnant, she might end up bedridden.

Hodges was forced to withdraw from last month’s Australian Swimming Championships making the biggest call of her career to retire from the sport that saw her reach great heights as one of Australia’s premier breaststrokers.

Hodges says she will attend Olympic trials in Brisbane next month to cheer on her old teammates. But don’t expect her to show up for the evening session of night two.

“I don’t think I will be there for the 100m breaststroke … that one will be a little too raw for me,” Hodges said. “I wish all the girls in that race luck. I’m a Dolphin forever and I’m an Olympian forever.”

Hodges said she felt so privileged to have been a Dolphin paying tribute to her coach at Southport Olympic, Sean Eels.

“I couldn’t have done it without the support of my coach Sean Eels, my parents, my partner Nick, strength and conditioning coach Matt Ferraro, physio Nick Marshall and my doctor John Ward, who was honest enough to tell me the hard truth,” said Hodges.

“To my dear friends Mollie (O’Callaghan) and Kaylee (McKeown) thank you for being so supportive and such good friends … to come back from the injuries I’ve had … and to make this call, I’m so incredibly proud of myself, and hope others are too.”

The Australian Olympic Trials will be swum from June 10-15 at the Sleeman Aquatic Centre.

Some of the highlight’s of Chelsea Hodges brilliant career……thanks for the memories Chelsea.

Jade Dixon and Chelsea Hodges

HAPPY DAYS:The Australia champion Chelsea Hodges. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Chelsea Hodges Austv rec

AUSTRALIAN RECORD: To Chelsea Hodges. Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr (Swimming Australia)

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Kaylee McKeown (AUS), Chelsea Hodges (AUS) and Emma McKeon (AUS) celebrate their victory in the women's 4x100m medley final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports - Australia

ANXIOUS MOMENT: Chelsea Hodge4s (right) in the Tokyo gold medal fight with Emma McKeon and Kayelee McKeown. Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher

PATRON DINNER Chelsea Hodges, Meg Harris, Mollie O'Callaghan, Madi Wilson

GOLDEN GIRLS: Chelsea Hodges (left) with Meg Harris, Mollie O’Callaghan and Madi Wilson. Photo Courtesy: Wade Brennan (Wade’s Photo)



 Chelsea broke the Australian record in the 50m breaststroke at the Australian Trials with 30.15secs before lowering that mark at the Commonwealth Games to 30.05secs to win bronze.

World record and gold medal – 4 x 50m Medley Relay (1:43.35) at the 2022 World Short Course Championships, Melbourne, 2022.

At the Tokyo Olympics, she helped Australia’s 400m medley relay team break an Olympic record (3:51.60) en route to the gold medal.

Gold medal – 4 x 100m medley relay at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Bronze medal – 50 & 100m breaststroke at the 2022 Commonwealth Games

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
11 days ago

Terribly sad to see such an indomitable young lady forced into retirement at this early stage if a stirling career. I wish her all the very best in life and hopefully pain free.
So now our medley relay has just became problematic and interesting! We’ll see if Ramsey or Toohey or Strauch can fill the void. We want to continue to stick it up the Yanks!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x