November 15, 2012

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) -- Leisel Jones retired Friday, ending a 13-year career in which she became the first Australian swimmer to compete at a fourth Olympics in London this year.

The 27-year-old breaststroker won her ninth Olympic medal in London - a medley relay silver - equaling a record held by Ian Thorpe for most Olympic medals won by an Australian.

Jones finished fifth in the 100-meter breaststroke in London, an event she won at Beijing in 2008 for her only individual career Olympic gold. She also won Australian medley relay golds in 2004 and 2008.

She won her first Olympic medal - a 100 breaststroke silver - at the age of 15 at Sydney in 2000.

Jones, who broke 12 individual long-course world records, was criticized by some Australian media for her apparent lack of fitness at the London Games and was shown in often unflattering photographs on the pool deck.

"I have a natural competitive drive and I think that will carry through into whatever I do after swimming," Jones said Friday.

"Of course swimming will always be a big part of my life but I am extremely proud of my achievements. To represent Australia at four Olympic Games is something that is very humbling and each one holds different memories and significance for me."

Swimming Australia head coach Leigh Nugent said Jones was an inspiration to other swimmers.

"She is probably one of the fiercest competitors that we have ever seen, and her dominance at national and international level has been terrific," Nugent said. "Leisel has inspired a whole generation of athletes with her success and hard work, and her contribution to swimming in Australia, especially breaststroke, will be her lasting legacy."

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