Three-time Paralympic Champion Hannah Russell Retires After Medal-Laden Career

Hannah Russell
Hannah Russell: Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Three-time Paralympic champion Hannah Russell has announced her retirement following success on the international stage spanning more than a decade.

With a silver and bronze on her international debut aged 14 at the Berlin 2011 European Championships, Russell marked the start of a medal-laden career in which she claimed 11 titles at Paralympic, World Championship and European level.

In front of a home crowd at London 2012, Russell shone at her first Paralympic Games, kicking her campaign off with S12 400m freestyle silver before adding a pair of bronzes.

A first global gold followed at the 2013 World Championships with Russell then going on to top the podium twice at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, setting a new world record in the S12 100m backstroke before sprinting to her second title days later in the S12 50m freestyle.

In the run up to Tokyo 2020, she took a period of time away from the water in 2019 to focus on her mental health and wellbeing, and during this period she completed her first class Sports Science degree from the University of Salford.

She went on to retain her S12 100 back Paralympic title in the Japanese capital in 2021 – something that stands out as a “special highlight” to Russell.

Her achievements for services to swimming were recognised in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list, with the triple Paralympic champion visiting Windsor Castle in June where the then Prince Charles presented her OBE.

Hannah Russell OBE

Hannah Russell receives OBE: Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Russell then secured a gold, two silvers and a relay bronze at her final World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira in June, before closing out her competitive career at her first Commonwealth Games, swimming up a class for S13 50m freestyle silver as a visual impairment para-swimming event was included for the first time in the aquatics programme at Birmingham 2022.

Speaking of her retirement, Russell told British Swimming:

“The time feels right for me. After three Paralympic Games and 35 international medals, finishing with a debut Commonwealth Games this summer was such an enjoyable experience – to be part of an integrated swimming team was really special, and with it being in Birmingham meant lots of my family and friends could be there to support in the home crowd.

“In the pool, I have challenged myself both mentally and physically, working incredibly hard to get that extra one per cent needed to be the best, and from a sporting perspective I can say that I achieved everything I set out to achieve.

“I’m leaving the sport on a high as I move on to a new challenge, and embrace a career in primary teaching with the Department for Education.”

She added:

“I witnessed the legacy and impact the 2012 London Paralympics had on all young children and believe inspiring grassroots sports is where our new champions will be exposed.

“It is vital that more visually-impaired athletes are encouraged and given the confidence to take up swimming as I have always felt safe and secure in the water. It is so exciting to see the inclusion of a visually impaired relay for Paris 2024, which shows how far our sport and my VI category has progressed.

“Giving back to the sport has always been important to me. I’m looking forward to transitioning the skills I have learnt from my elite swimming career across to my teaching and making a difference in my community. My motto to all children and young people is ‘if you believe, you can achieve’.

“I’d like to thank my family who have been my rock and number one supporters throughout my whole swimming career. Thanks also to my swimming clubs Woking and COMAST, in addition to the numerous staff members at British Para-Swimming who have guided me through all the opportunities I have been so fortunate to have experienced over the past 11 years.

“Finally, to my teammates – I have created some very special friendships, ones which I hope last a lifetime – I wish them all the very best of luck for the future, and will be excited to continue supporting them from the side lines on the journey into Paris and beyond.”

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