Olympic great Louis Smith has announced his retirement this morning.
Smith has called time on a glorious career - which included a stack of major medals – at the age of 29. He was trained at Huntingdon Olympic Gymnastics Club from an early age by Paul Hall, who is now the Great Britain men’s head coach.
Smith grabbed bronze on the pommel horse in Beijing in 2008 and then added silver medals to his collection on the same piece of apparatus in London (2012) and Rio (2016). He also won a team bronze medal in London.
Smith, from Peterborough, also claimed five World Championships medals (three silver, two bronze), struck gold at the Commwealth Games on the pommel back in 2006 and was European champion in 2015.
Smith said: “The day that every sportsman and woman knows will come at some point has finally arrived for me - and today I’m announcing my retirement from competitive gymnastics after 25 years in the sport.
“Gym has given me everything. It gave me the tools necessary to channel my ADHD throughout my childhood and as I grew up through the sport, I very quickly found a purpose in life, and it has made me the person I am today.
“From a young age it became my dream to compete at an Olympic Games and represent Great Britain, so to have had the opportunity to do that on three separate occasions and bring home four Olympic medals in the process, is something I will forever cherish and for which I am eternally grateful.
“I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved in the sport and hope that my achievements have left a legacy that will continue to inspire gymnasts of the future.
“In addition to the continued development of my gymnastic academies, I have every intention of giving back as much as I can to a sport that gave me so much.”
Smith received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List of 2013 in recognition of his stunning exploits and he was credited with inspiring a golden generation of British gymnasts.
But he also found fame away from the sport with appearances on a number of television shows, including Strictly Come Dancing, making him a household name.
He had initially intended to aim to qualify for a fourth Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, but changes in the sport and other opportunities outside of it have prompted him to bring forward his retirement.
He added: “For the past 18 months my intention had always been to return to full training this month ahead of competing in the upcoming World Cup series of competitions and to hopefully qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
“Recently, with the changes in the qualification criteria, in addition to exciting opportunities that I’ve been presented with as I look to the next stage of my career beyond gymnastics, I had to make the very difficult decision to finally hang up my leotard.
“In doing so, my eternal thanks has to go to my coach Paul Hall, who has been there with me through it all and without whom I would never have reached the heights I did in the sport.
“Also to my teammates over the years who have continued to motivate and inspire me to be the best gymnast I can be, to the gymnastics fans across the country for their unending support, and of course to my mum for all the support and unconditional love that she has shown and continues to show me, and without whom my dreams would never have been realised.
“I’m so excited for what the future holds and this next stage in my life, and can only hope that it brings me as much joy as gymnastics has to this point.”