Olympic 200IM Silver Medallist Siobhan O’Connor Retires As Third Fastest All-Time

Siobhan O'Connor: Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Olympic 200IM silver medallist Siobhan O’Connor has announced her retirement from the pool after a career that spanned 10 years among the world’s elite and saw her top world, European and Commonwealth podiums.

It comes little more than two months after the 25-year-old, most recently coached by Dave Hemmings at Loughborough, was unable to compete at the British Olympic trials in April after ulcerative colitis disrupted her training.

The condition and its effects mean she has called an end to a fine career as she can no longer push her body to meet the demands that are necessary to stay at the top of the sport.

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor (photo: Mike Lewis)

Photo Courtesy: MIKE LEWIS

O’Connor was and remains only the third woman to go 2:06 in the 200IM when she stopped the clock at 2:06.88 for silver at Rio 2016 behind Katinka Hosszu.

Only Hosszu with her world record of 2:06.12 at the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia, and Ariana Kukors – whose 2:06.15 at the shiny-suit circus that was the 2009 worlds was then a global mark – have gone quicker than the Briton.


Rankings All-Suits

Katinka Hosszu, 2:06.12, 2015 World Championships

Ariana Kukors, 2:06.15, 2009 World Championships

Siobhan O’Connor, 2:06.88, 2016 Olympics

Stephanie Rice, 2:07.03, 2009 World Championships

Ye Shiwen, 2:07.57, 2012 Olympics

O’Connor made her senior international debut at the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai aged 15 and went on to become Team GB’s youngest swimmer at the Olympics in London the following year.

That same year she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease which went undiagnosed and uncontrolled for a year following the first flare-up after her return from Shanghai.

It affected all aspects of O’Connor’s life, forcing her to miss blocks of training which serves to underline the magnitude of her achievements and notably her only unbroken spell of training was prior to Rio.

In a statement, O’Connor said:

“Stepping away from the sport I love has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

“I am very disappointed that I haven’t been able to compete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, but I am so proud of all that I have achieved in my career.

“I can look back and say I was lucky enough to be able to achieve my dreams and all that I ever set out to do in the sport.

“I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities during my time as an athlete that I will forever be grateful for.

“I have travelled the world, worked with incredible and inspiring people and made friends for life.”

She added:

“I first fell in love with the sport when I was nine years old and back then I never could have imagined all the places it would take me and the memories I would make.

“I followed my dream and I’m so glad I did.

“None of it would have been possible without the unwavering support of my family, friends, coaches, team-mates and sponsors.

“Those who supported me on my journey made the tough times easier, and the good times even more special.

“No words will ever be able to describe what their support has meant to me and how grateful I am. I would like to thank those people for believing in me and allowing me to live my dream.”

O’Connor first started swimming at Keynsham Swimming Club in Bristol, a city in south-west England, when she was eight with her brother, Ciaran.

At the age of 11,  she began training at the University of Bath in the programme for young swimmers in the area and three years later moved to the British Swimming National Centre where she was coached by Dave McNulty, with whom she would remain for the next 10 years.

McNulty, whose track record of guiding swimmers to international success also includes Jazz Carlin, Jo Jackson and Mel Marshall, said:

“We took Siobhan into the Bath National Centre aged 14, and she quickly became a great member of the squad.

“Shortly afterwards, Siobhan became European junior champion in the 200m and 400m individual medley, and one key milestone then was when she gained selection for the home Olympic Games in London in 2012.

“She was the youngest member of the British swimming team at the Games and she went on to become an Olympic finalist at just 16.

“Highlights over the next few years of Siobhan’s career include her becoming Commonwealth, European and world Champion, as well as being a member of the world-record breaking mixed medley relay team.

20th April 2019, Tollcross ISC, Glasgow, Scotland;

Photo Courtesy: Georgie Kerr

“But for me and everybody who is involved in swimming, the highlight of her career would be the amazing silver medal-winning performance in the 200m IM at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in a time of 2:06.88, a swim I still feel is up there with one of the best British Olympic performances in history.

“This was also very special to myself, Siobhan and the team at the Bath National Centre because we all knew the day-to-day challenge that Siobhan was coping with with her ulcerative colitis.

“It gives me amazing pleasure and pride to look back on that outstanding Olympic dream and journey that resulted in an Olympic silver medal.

“I would like to say a massive well done to Siobhan on an outstanding journey both in and outside of the pool.

“It was a huge pleasure and privilege to be a part of that as your coach.

“I’m so proud of you, have a great retirement.”

O’Connor’s Roll Call

Rio 2016

Silver, 200IM

Seventh, 4x100m medley relay

London 2012

Eighth, 4x100m medley relay

World Championships

2019: Seventh, 200IM

2017: Seventh, 200IM; Fifth, 4×100 mixed medley relay

2015: Gold, 4×100 mixed medley relay; Bronze, 200IM; Fifth, 4x200fr relay; 10th, 200 free

2013: Eighth, 200IM

2011: 13th, 200IM

European Championships

2018: Bronze, 4×100 medley relay; Fourth, 200IM; Fifth, 100br; Fourth, 4×100 free

2016: Gold, 4×100 medley relay; Gold, 4×100 mixed medley relay; Silver, 200IM; Fourth, 4×200 free

Commonwealth Games

2018: Gold, 200IM; Bronze, 4×100 free; Bronze, 4×200 free; Fourth, 4x1oo medley relay

2014: Gold, 200IM; Silver, 200 free; Silver, 100 fly; Silver, 4x1oo free; Silver, 4×100 medley; Bronze, 4×200 free

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