Joanne Jackson, Yorkshire’s most decorated swimmer of the past decade, has retired.
The Beijing bronze medallist and former 400m world record holder has hung up her swimsuit for good to pursue a number of other opportunities, one of which is to open a swimming academy.
At 26, the Northallerton swimmer is bowing out at the start of the four-year Olympic cycle that would take her up to the age of 29 by Rio.
After competing in three Olympics and having seen her powers reduced by a severe bout of asthma, the time is right for Jackson to step aside.
She was one of the fastest swimmers on the planet three years ago when she smashed the world record at Ponds Forge in Sheffield and then won three medals at the world championships in Rome later that summer.
Twelve months earlier Jackson was a surprise bronze medallist in Beijing behind Rebecca Adlington, as the star of those Olympics won the first of her two gold medals in the 400m freestyle.
A severe bout of ashma cut Jackson down in her prime. The Loughborough ITC swimmer could not even train during the winter of 2009-10 because the illness was forcing her ribs to pop out as she swam.
When she returned to full fitness she was no longer the force she had been.
The London Olympics was her third Games and although she went into it hoping for a repeat of the magic of Beijing, she could only finish seventh in her heat for a final overall position of 21st, which matched her achievement in Athens when she was a wide-eyed 17-year-old at her first major meet. Jackson was also part of Britain’s 4x200m relay squad in London that missed out on a medal in fifth place.
As well as her Olympic and world success – Jackson won two individual silvers in Rome in 2009 – she completed the set of major medals by winning two silver and a bronze over two Commonwealth Games’ and four medals in three European championships.
She remains the British record holder in the 200m and 400m freestyle.
Jackson, who swam for Derwentside and Richmond Dales in her youth, said: “I feel so lucky to have been able to compete at international level for so many years and to have been to three Olympic Games.
“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me along the way.
“I have been fortunate to have had some great sponsors who stuck with me through all the ups and downs. And at British Swimming, the coaches and the support team have been awesome.
“I’m now looking at new opportunities, to start a swim academy and begin a brand new career in events.”
Michael Scott, British Swimming’s national performance director, praised Jackson for her achievements and dedication to the sport.
“To be a three-time Olympian, an Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth medallist, and to have set a world record over the 400m freestyle in 2009, are all outstanding achievements.
“On behalf of all at British Swimming, I would like to wish Jo all the best in her new endeavours.”
Jackson leaves a wealth of young talent from Yorkshire who are ready to emulate her. Beverley’s Lizzie Simmonds is already a double Olympian and former European champion, while the City of Sheffield duo Ellie Faulkner and Becky Turner will look to build on their Olympic debuts in the summer at the world short-course championships next month.