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Five-time Olympic gold medalist retires from swimming to fulfill a greater dream — to be a mom

"This was perhaps the hardest letter I've ever had to write"

LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages

In a heartbreaking letter published Wednesday, five-time Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin said that she was retiring from swimming in order to seek her greatest dream - to be a mom.

Franklin had won five gold medals and many other awards and accolades competing as a world-class athlete. She explained why she chose to retire at the age of 23.

"It is with tears in my eyes but a full heart that I begin typing this letter," she began the missive.

Franklin explains her long personal journey through competing at the highest level in swimming, and her many victories.

"The first 18 years of my career were as picture perfect as it can get," Franklin says. "The equation couldn't have made more sense: you work hard, you have a positive attitude, you show up every day and give your best, and you get faster. That's how it worked for me."

But she began to face difficulties in 2015, and it took a toll on her mentally.

"I've been very open about what I went through as I prepared for the Olympics in 2016 and talked openly about the struggles I endured," she said, "which included shoulder pain whenever I tried to train or compete, depression, anxiety and insomnia. It was also the year when I began to fully accept the fact that something was wrong with my body and it wasn't working the way it was supposed to work."

"My greatest dream in life... has always been becoming a mom"

Franklin says the final straw was when she was told that surgery was her only option to continue in the sport.

When I heard the word "surgery," I immediately broke down because I already knew my answer: no. I've been in too much pain, for too long, to go through another surgery with a longer recovery time and no guarantee it would even help. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed. I talked to the most trusted people in my life. When my now fiancé looked at me and said the following, my answer finally became clear. "I will support you fully, no matter what you choose. But what matters to me the most, more than anything, is that you can hold our children in your arms one day without being in excruciating pain."

"I began to realize that my greatest dream in life, more so than Olympic gold, has always been becoming a mom," she concluded.

Franklin said she will not leave swimming completely, but will change her role so that she's not competing herself.

"I'm ready to not be in pain every day," she wrote. "I'm ready to become a wife and, 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," she ended.

Here's a video about Missy Franklin's retirement announcement:

One last thing…
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