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Five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin retires from swimming at 23

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 12/19/2018 Adam Woodard
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At just 23 years old, with five Olympic gold medals, a world record in the 200-meter backstroke and two FINA Swimmer of the Year Awards, Missy Franklin is hanging up her goggles. 

In a letter on ESPN, Franklin announced her retirement, citing chronic shoulder pain that she's been battling for more than two years.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the 17-year-old Franklin burst onto the scene, winning four gold medals while stealing the hearts of Americans with her big personality and even bigger smile. 

"This is by no means the end," Franklin wrote. "Rather, I choose to look at this as a new beginning. Swimming has been, and always will be, a big part of my life and I absolutely plan to stay involved in what I feel is the best sport in the world, just in a different way."

Franklin has won 27 medals in international competition — sixteen of them gold — spanning the Olympics, World Championships, short course World Championships and Pan Pacific Championships. 

After her success in London and at the 2013 World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona, Franklin attended the University of California-Berkeley instead of turning professional. Her team at Cal won the 2015 national title.

From then on, her career was hindered by a back injury, which resulted in a disappointing performance at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where Franklin failed to make the finals for the 200-meter freestyle and the 200-meter backstroke.

She received a gold medal in Rio for swimming in the preliminary heat of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay, but was not one of the four Americans to stand on the podium after the U.S. won the event.

"It took me a long time to say the words, 'I am retiring,'" Franklin wrote. "A long, long time. But now I'm ready. I'm ready to not be in pain every day. I'm ready to become a wife, one day a mother. I'm ready to continue growing each and every day to be the best person and role model I can be. I'm ready for the rest of my life."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin retires from swimming at 23

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