Retirement isn’t a word that typically floats around those barely out of their teenage years, but synchronised swimmer Katie Clark has been there, got the costume, and then returned to the sport she adores.
Three years ago, aged just 19, Clark announced her retirement from synchronised swimming along with teammate Olivia Federici, but their absence didn’t last long, with the pair returning to the pool little more than two years later.
Four years on from her first Olympic Games in London, Clark is preparing to don the red, white and blue of Team GB once more after being selected to compete in Rio later this summer alongside Federici.
And as the pair aim to become the first British duet to medal at the Games, the 22-year-old admits the time is nigh for the duo to prove their comeback was the right decision.
“When I had the meeting to say I was retiring, my coach told me that I had more potential and more left in me, and that has stuck with me,” said Clark.
“At the time, it felt right to leave but when I thought about the opportunity to come back, I’d never been part of a duet before and I really wanted to push myself that little bit further. I kept pushing and now I’ve made the team for Rio.
“The duet is a completely different challenge to the team event. I’ve done duets before but never as the top pair.
“There is a greater focus on the technical aspects of the performance rather than everyone working together in the team.
“Olivia and I have worked together since before 2009 so we know each other really well. We push each other and we work very much as a team.
“We’re feeling really good about what we can achieve in Rio because we’ve got that little bit better at every competition.”
After winning the junior trials at the 2008 National Championships, Clark’s career in the pool has gone from strength to strength, with the London 2012 Olympic Games undoubtedly being her crowning moment.
While the team missed out on a medal with a sixth-place finish, the memory of competing on home soil is one that she will never let go.
And with less than 50 days to go until the action in Rio gets underway, Clark claims she couldn’t be more excited to strut her stuff in Brazilian waters.
“We’re so happy to be heading to Rio,” she added. “I can’t really sum it up in words how it feels to be a part of Team GB so I’m over the moon.
“Rio is definitely going to be different to London 2012. Olivia has competed at Games abroad before but this will be my first time.
“London 2012 was so special to me because it was a home Olympic Games, but I think this one is even more special because it was more of a risk for me to return to the sport and go to Rio.
“I think the atmosphere is going to be brilliant and I just can’t wait to get out there and see what Rio has to offer.”
By Katie Falkingham