Golden girl is looking forward to new challenge in the pool
IT was a journey that started with her taking a dip in a paddling pool before following the lead of her oldest sisters Chloe and Laura at Sherwood Baths.
And, yesterday, it ended amid a media scrum of photographers, flashing bulbs in a swanky Westminster hotel – a living legend of the sport taking her final bow at the age of 23.
A packed conference room of journalists, photographers and television crews were there to witness the end of an era for the Mansfield star who has become the all-time great of British swimming.
After winning double Olympic gold in Beijing at the age of 19, Adlington became a household name, shooting to stardom overnight.
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She has had to learn how to cope with being in the public eye and live up to the pressure of her early success.
At times, it wasn't easy, like the 2009 Worlds in Rome when it ended in tears.
But Adlington lived up to the hype, being crowned World and Commonwealth champion before winning two bronze medals at the London Olympics last summer.
At that point, there was relief, some sort of closure and she took a few months off to enjoy herself. Retirement looked on the cards.
And after six months out of the pool, debating her future, she felt that the decision to step down from elite racing was the right one.
It was a young girl's game and, with her being 27 at the next Olympics, it was time to step aside, the gruelling training regime not one her body could hold up to, or one that she wanted to put herself through.
The time felt right and, as she took to the golden chair on the stage yesterday, it was evident she was content with her decision to bow out on top.
The bookies have her at 8/1 to come out of retirement. But anybody there yesterday knows that will not happen.
With proud parents Steve and Kay in the front row, looking on, she came out to pose for a couple of minutes, photographers shouting from every angle to get their shot.
Then she relaxed, smiling, laughing, her usual bubbly persona as she outlined her plans for the future, taking questions from the floor.
She joked about how the last few months she had let herself indulge in chips, treats, holidays, more time with her family and boyfriend Harry Needs.
But as for letting herself go, she pointed out she had been back in the gym, getting herself fit, as she had no plans to let herself get fat just to lose weight and bring out a fitness DVD out, as a mischievous friend suggested as a way of making some cash.
She was having a joke with her audience and it was so evident this was a girl more than content with the big decision she had made. A weight had been lifted.
And the key to that, she made clear with a fulfilled smile, was she hangs up her goggles with no regrets whatsoever from her career. She could have done no more.
After the official press conference, she sat down with the written press, perched on the edge of the stage, talking about potential TV work, mentoring at some stage and the big passion, the one topic that will take up most of her time, her Becky's SwimStars initiative.
Already, she has been taking swimming lessons in Derby as she will soon be a qualified Level 1 and 2 swimming teacher. She wants to establish her learn-to-swim programmes in leisure centres, hotel pools and schools across the country.
While she is quitting competitive swimming, Adlington says she will be taking to the water even when she is 90, she loves it so much.
Add to her medal haul the 800m freestyle world record and an OBE, she hasn't done bad. Then there is the local pool now revamped and named in her honour, after Beijing.
"That was amazing," she said. "But to me it will be forever Sherwood Baths, the place where it all started.
"I loved going along and I really hope the next Becky Adlington can come from that pool. I have the best memories from there."
And there it was, the venue where it all started as a toddler, now a venue where Adlington will be looking to help roll out her new SwimStars initiative.
It was almost like the journey had come full circle.
As Adlington pointed out yesterday, if she achieves her goal one day of getting every child swimming 25m by the time they leave primary school, that will trump any of her own achievements in the pool.
It might take some time, but given her driven and determined nature as an athlete, you wouldn't bet against her achieving that next goal.