Australia bid farewell to yet another of its greatest swimmers with the retirement of Eamon Sullivan on Wednesday.
“I’m at a point where I’ve had one too many injuries, and it has become too much to manage,” Sullivan, who pulled out of the Commonwealth Games in June with a shoulder injury, said in a statement. “In the end my body has let me down, so I’m very disappointed, but it’s the right time.”
Sullivan, 28, was the Aussies’ biggest men’s swim star heading into the 2008 Olympics. The Australian men did not excel in Beijing, winning zero gold medals (as opposed to at least three each in 1996, 2000 and 2004).
But Sullivan performed admirably despite a sixth-place finish in the 50m, where he held the world record.
He led off the 4x100m freestyle relay by breaking the world record for the 100m and touching the wall ahead of U.S. leadoff man Michael Phelps. The Aussies would be passed by the Americans and the French on the second leg but held on for bronze in a time that was 2.32 seconds faster than the previous world record.
Sullivan rebroke the 100m free world record in the individual 100m semifinals, but he was slower in the final and took silver behind France’s Alain Bernard.
Sullivan was a threat to Phelps going for his eighth straight gold in the final event, the 4x100m medley relay. Sullivan entered the pool with a .81 deficit to Jason Lezak but couldn’t run down the veteran American. Still, the Australians came in under the previous world record to earn silver. Sullivan had the fastest split of the race.
Sullivan also swam in the 2004 Olympic 4x100m free relay final as the youngest man on the Australian Olympic Swim Team. The Aussies finished sixth with Ian Thorpe on anchor.
Sullivan came back to make his third Olympic Team in 2012, finishing eighth in the 50m free and swimming the fastest split for Australia in the 4x100m free relay. The Aussies were fourth.
Sullivan’s retirement follows the April news that his ex-girlfriend and three-time 2008 Olympic champion Stephanie Rice retired and, also in April, Thorpe’s manager saying that Thorpe would likely never swim competitive again.