Beach volleyballer Natalie Cook's fifth Olympic campaign is over after slumping to a third straight defeat with partner Tamsin Hinchley at the London Games.
Cook and her Beijing Games partner Hinchley, herself a veteran of three Games, took a set off Czech duo Marketa Slukova and Kristyna Kolocova but went down 21-16 18-21 15-11 at Horse Guards Parade on Wednesday.
The Australians needed to win the match to have any chance of reaching the knockout stages following defeats to America's reigning two-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh and Austrian sisters Stefanie and Doris Schwaiger.
Cook and Hinchley were hoping to better the fifth-placing they achieved at the Beijing Games but now leave London winless and bottom of their pool.
After being beaten convincingly in the first set, the Australians fired back to take the second.
The decider was a tight affair until the last few points, and ultimately it was a tired-looking dink into the net by Cook that settled the contest.
The Australians will no doubt reflect on the four squandered match points they held against Austria on Monday as the turning point in their disappointing campaign.
Cook, 37, will retire after the London Games, and leaves the sport with a string of accolades to her name having won bronze in Atlanta and gold in Sydney with Kerri Pottharst.
Cook also made history in London as the first Australian woman to compete at five summer Games and is the only female beach volleyball to compete in every Games since the sport's Olympic debut in 1996.
"I don't want to leave, this atmosphere is amazing," Cook said after her match.
"It's the greatest thing on earth. I have been privileged to be part of it and I could not be prouder.
"If I inspired just one Aussie kid who will say to his mother 'Mum, I want to play beach volleyball', I am happy.'
"I am proud to be an Olympian and an Australian."