Gymnastics: Olympic hero Beth Tweddle retires after raising the bar for Britain

London 2012 bronze medallist will open academy to unearth stars of the future

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The Independent Online

A year to the day since she claimed Olympic bronze in the uneven bars, Beth Tweddle became the latest star of London 2012 to announce her retirement after a glittering career that has helped to transform gymnastics in Britain.

As with Sir Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Adlington and Sir Ben Ainslie in cycling, swimming and sailing respectively, the three-times world champion's departure at the age of 28 marks the end of an era. Before Tweddle came along, no British gymnast had even won a medal at a World Championships, but she leaves as the standard bearer for a sport which has made significant strides since she first represented her country in junior competition aged nine.

"It's been a hard decision to make; gymnastics has been and always will be a massive part of my life," Tweddle said at Chobham Academy, a new school which opens next month on the site of the London 2012 Athletes' Village that will house the new Beth Tweddle Academy.

"Following the Olympics I've had a lot of projects and recently I've had a bit more time to get back into the gym and decide whether I could put 100 per cent into it, and I know now deep down I can't commit to the hours and training to remain at the very top. I don't think my achievements will ever really sink in but when I do look back I can be very proud of what I've done and how I've done it."

Those achievements make up some list. As well as last year's bronze and world titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010, Tweddle was a six-time European champion and seven-time national champion but her true legacy was helping to improve Britain's reputation as a poor relation of the gymnastics fraternity .

An unprecedented four gymnastics medals in London – two more than the target set by UK Sport – has left the sport in rude health ahead of next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Now Tweddle is hoping Total Gymnastics, the company she set up with former Olympic swimmer Steve Parry, can help to unearth new talent as part of a government-sponsored national programme. "The London 2012 Olympics is where I achieved my life-long dream and now I hope I can inspire the next generation by providing the opportunity to try gymnastics," said Tweddle.

"The [Chobham Academy] school opens this September and my academy will be starting in mid-October. I want to give every child an opportunity. I had to try a lot of sports before I found gymnastics. This way children can have a go; they might love it, they might hate it, but we've given them the opportunity to try it."

Brilliant Beth: Tweddle's triumphs

2000 Gold Junior C'wealth Games. 2002 Gold Commonwealth Games.

2003 First Briton to win a World Championship medal (bronze). 2004 Silver at European Championships on uneven bars.

2006 First Briton to win European Championship gold. First Briton to be world champion. Gold again on uneven bars at World Cup final.

2009 Wins World title a second time.

2010 Gold medals on uneven bars at European and World Championships plus gold in floor event at Europeans.

2012 Olympic bronze on uneven bars.