By Tom Degun at the InterContinental London Westminster

Becky Adlington at retirement press conference February 5 2013February 5 - Rebecca Adlington has officially announced her retirement at the age of 23 here today as she unveiled plans to focus on campaigning work that will see her look to get youngsters involved in swimming.

The Mansfield athlete shot to stardom at Beijing 2008 when she was just 19 as she became Britain's first female Olympic swimming champion in 48 years with victories in both the 400 and 800 metres freestyle.

She followed the double gold medal winning feat with two bronze medals in the same two events at London 2012, while she has also got two Commonwealth golds and a World Championship gold and in her glittering collection.

"I hate the word 'retired' so I don't want to say it because I would never retire from swimming all together," said Adlington at a packed press conference.

"I love swimming but as a competitive element and elite athlete, I won't compete anymore.

"I have achieved everything I wanted to.

"Some people want to milk it all they can but I've always said I wanted to finish on a high, despite my love of the sport.

"I had to look at things after London 2012, take a break and see how I felt when I came back.

"It didn't feel the same getting back into training and it felt like time."

Becky Adlington with two Olympic gold medals
Rebecca Adlington goes into retirement having won four Olympic medals, two of which were gold

In retiring, Adlington announced her plans to head up the "Rebecca Adlington Swim Stars" programme which will encourage youngsters to take up the sport.

"I've always wanted to launch my own learn to swim programme but I didn't have time as an athlete," she said.

"I want to create a deeper legacy.

"I want all children when they leave school to be able to swim 25 metres – that's my new ambition in life.

"I know it's ambitious but I know that with a lot of hard work you can achieve what many people think is impossible."

Adlington's retirement comes after her vocal attack on British Swimming after London 2012 when she said she felt "insulted, disheartened and saddened by the way they have ignored us, the swimmers."

But Adlington says that had no bearing on her decision, and that she would like to take an active role in British Swimming, mentoring and advising future elite swimmers.

"I'd love to stay involved in all sorts of ways," she said.

"Hopefully I can help the younger guys coming up because I have been through it all."

That move seems likely after her former coach Bill Furniss was yesterday named as the new British Swimming head coach, replacing American Dennis Pursley.

Pursley left after London 2012 following the team's failure to reach its medal target of winning at least five medals.

Rebecca-Adlington and Bill FurnissRebecca Adlington believes her former mentor Bill Furniss is a great appointment as the new British Swimming head coach

Britain took only three swimming medals at the Games, as Adlington claimed her two bronze medals and Michael Jamieson picked up silver in the men's 200m breaststroke.

"I think Bill is a great appointment for British Swimming," she said.

"He has been behind all the success in my career and I will miss seeing him every day.

"It is sad that I am not going to get to work with him now in his role as British Swimming head coach because that would have been great but it is now time for me move on."

Following the announcement, London 2012 and British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Sebastian Coe led the tributes.

"Becky Adlington's unforgettable success in Beijing inspired a generation to get in the pool and swim," he said.

"Her down to earth personality and remarkable career achievements have made her a national treasure.

"Becky's vision for the future of grass roots swimming in this country will create a wonderful legacy from one of our greatest Olympians.

"I have no doubt this vision will be pursued with the same drive, dedication and determination as Becky consistently displayed in the pool."

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