Chelsea Hodges announcement leaves swimming world stunned ahead of Paris Olympics

The Aussie Olympic gold medallist has made the sad decision to retire from the sport.

The swimming world has reacted with shock and sadness after Chelsea Hodges announced her retirement from the sport on the eve of the Paris Olympics. The 22-year-old won a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 as part of Australia's 4x100m medley relay team.

She swum the breaststroke leg in that gold medal-winning race three years ago and was still regarded as Australia's strongest female swimmer in the discipline. But the young gun has been battling ongoing hip injuries in recent years and announced her sad retirement from swimming on Friday.

The heartbreaking news comes just two months before the Olympics in Paris. "It's with a very heavy heart I announce my retirement from competitive swimming," she posted on Instagram.

Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell in 2021.
(L-R) Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell with their gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

"It's been a challenging 18 months and retiring now is not how I hoped this chapter of my life would end, however I believe I've made the right decision. I had to make the decision to retire or ruin my chance to be as fit and as healthy as I would like in my future. Ultimately I have to do what's best for my future and listen to what my body has been desperately trying to tell me."


Hodges broke the national record in the 50m breaststroke in 2022 at the Australian selection trials for the Commonwealth Games. She lowered her own record at the Games in Birmingham later that year where she won bronze in 30.05 seconds.

"Over the last few weeks I've been deliberating what my career and the rest of my life looks like," she told The Sydney Morning Herald. "I've made the decision to retire from competitive swimming. I've been taking a lot of medical advice. It's hard … I've told my close friends and family."

Chelsea Hodges, pictured here with Emma McKeon and Kaylee McKeown.
Chelsea Hodges (R) with Emma McKeon (L) and Kaylee McKeown (centre) at the Tokyo Olympics.

Hodges was sidelined last year after having surgery on torn cartilage in her right hip. She entered last month's Australian national titles but didn't race.

“I went home and cried for many hours. I think I knew my swimming was done,” she added. “Being in pain all the time is very tiring. You are mentally and physically drained. I just wanted the pain to end. It feels like someone is grinding your bones any time you move and drilling a hole into your leg."

Hodges underwent surgery for the first time at age 15 and said her hips are like that of a 60-year-old. "I wanted one last chance at the Games, but after six cortisone injections I had to make a decision on my future," she said in press release from Swimming Australia.

"And I am completely at ease at calling time. I am excited about what my future holds ... I know this decision means I can continue working in my career as a nurse, where I am on my feet all day, and hopefully, all things going to plan, run on the beach with my kids. I'll still be cheering on the Dolphins in Paris and can't wait to see how the team goes."

Tributes have been flowing in around the swimming world after Hodges' sad announcement. Teammates Kaylee McKeown and Isaac Cooper were among the many to congratulate her on her career.

with AAP