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Hannah Russell announces her retirement from competitive swimming

Three-time Paralympic Champion Hannah Russell has announced her retirement from swimming after a decade of success inside the pool.

Russell won two gold medals at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, sprinting to the title in the S12 50m Freestyle after setting a new world record to take S12 100m Backstroke gold.

She followed that up by retaining her S12 100m Backstroke crown at Tokyo 2020 to claim her third Paralympic title.

After a glittering career, Russell told British Swimming that she is looking forward to giving back to the sport following her retirement.

She said: “Giving back to the sport has always been important to me. I’m looking forward to transitioning the skills I have learnt from my elite swimming career across to my teaching and making a difference in my community.

“My motto to all children and young people is ‘if you believe, you can achieve’.

“I witnessed the legacy and impact the 2012 London Paralympics had on all young children and believe inspiring grassroots sports is where our new champions will be exposed.

“It is vital that more visually impaired athletes are encouraged and given the confidence to take up swimming as I have always felt safe and secure in the water.

“It is so exciting to see the inclusion of a visually impaired relay for Paris 2024, which shows how far our sport and my VI category has progressed.”

A glittering career

Russell joined Woking Swimming Club at the age of seven and burst onto the international para-swimming scene at the age of just 14 when she won a silver and bronze at the 2011 European Championships in Berlin.

She then got the opportunity to compete in front of her home crowd at her first Paralympic Games at London 2012 where she took the S12 400m Freestyle silver medal, before adding a pair of bronzes in the 100m Backstroke and the 100m Butterfly.

On route to the Rio 2016 Paralympics, the Surrey born swimmer won her first gold on the world stage when she claimed the S12 100m Backstroke title at the 2013 Montreal World Para Swimming Championships.

In Rio she took two of her three Paralympic titles before adding a bronze when swimming up a class in the S13 100m Freestyle.

Despite taking some time away from the pool in the run up to Tokyo 2020, Russell persevered through the pandemic to retain her S12 100m Backstroke Paralympic crown and added bronze in the S12 100m Freestyle.

Across her career Russell won 35 international medals, including 12 World and 14 European para-swimming medals with three World championship golds, the final one coming at the 2022 Madeira Para Swimming World Championships in June.

She closed out her career on a high, swimming up a class to compete in her first Commonwealth Games to win silver in the S13 50m Freestyle final where a visually impaired para-swimming event was included for the first time at the Birmingham 2022 games.

Her achievements for services to swimming were recognised in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list, with the triple Paralympic champion visiting Windsor Castle in June where the then Prince Charles presented her with an OBE.

Hannah Russell celebrates Paralympic gold at Rio 2016. Used for English para-swimming talent id days.

“The time feels right”

Speaking of her retirement, Russell said: “The time feels right for me. After three Paralympic Games and 35 international medals, finishing with a debut Commonwealth Games this summer was such an enjoyable experience – to be part of an integrated swimming team was really special, and with it being in Birmingham it meant lots of my family and friends could be there to support in the home crowd.

“In the pool, I have challenged myself both mentally and physically, working incredibly hard to get that extra one per cent needed to be the best, and from a sporting perspective I can say that I achieved everything I set out to achieve.

“I’m leaving the sport on a high as I move on to a new challenge, and embrace a career in primary teaching with the Department for Education.

“I’d like to thank my family who have been my rock and number one supporters throughout my whole swimming career. Thanks also to my swimming clubs Woking and COMAST, in addition to the numerous staff members at British Para-Swimming who have guided me through all the opportunities I have been so fortunate to have experienced over the past 11 years.

“Finally, to my teammates – I have created some very special friendships, ones which I hope last a lifetime – I wish them all the very best of luck for the future, and will be excited to continue supporting them from the side lines on the journey into Paris and beyond.”