Athletics: Golden girl Lewis retires as illness and injuries take their toll
Thursday 30 June 2005
Denise Lewis will head to Singapore this weekend as an ex-athlete. The former Olympic heptathlon champion, who will be supporting London's bid for the 2012 Games before Wednesday's vote, has decided that, as a 32-year-old mother, her commitments in life have finally shifted.
After winning gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney, Lewis insisted that while one Olympic title was fine, she was really after two. But illness and injuries undermined her career from that point on and her Olympic defence in Athens last summer ended in tears as she pulled out with two events remaining.
In the meantime, the event has seen the inexorable rise of the young Swede who now holds all the major titles, Carolina Kluft, while on the domestic front, Lewis's training partner, Kelly Sotherton, has emerged as Kluft's main challenger after taking an unexpected bronze medal in Greece.
"After so many setbacks, the messages come through loud and clear," said Lewis, who was prompted to make her announcement after a tonsil infection requiring hospital treatment forced her to abandon her plans to compete in this summer's World Championships in Helsinki.
"It is a very emotional decision. I do not make decisions very lightly and it was a combination of the injuries I have had to face and the constant battle of trying to reproduce my form. There comes a point when you have to take stock and you just don't want to be in pain any more."
There had been speculation that Lewis, who also won Olympic bronze in 1996 and two World Championship silvers, in 1997 and 1999, might try to hang on for another few months to compete at Melbourne in next year's Commonwealth Games, the event where she made her breakthrough in 1994. But it is clear that her enthusiasm now lies more with making an impact in the world of showbusiness following her successful performances in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing programme.
In the meantime, the woman who took the opportunity of an appearance on another then BBC programme, Parkinson, to decry Britain's "third world sporting facilities", will be waving the flag for London's nascent enterprise.
As Lewis retires, another Olympic champion who has already signalled her intent of leaving either at the end of this year or early in the next, Kelly Holmes, has been forced to drop out of this weekend's meeting in Cork because of the Achilles tendon problem which kept her out of this month's European Cup.
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