'Rebecca Adlington has been a fantastic servant to the sport – she is a legend'
BILL Furniss believes the characteristics that made Rebecca Adlington the best British swimmer of all time will ensure she is a huge success in whatever she does next in life.
The 23-year-old announced she would step down from the sport yesterday, a day after her long-time mentor Furniss was named as the head coach of British Swimming.
The pair had worked together at the elite swimming group in Nottinghamshire, Nova Centurion, since she was 12.
And the Mansfield ace went on to win double Olympic gold in the 400m and 800m freestyle and two bronzes in the same events at the London Games last summer.
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As she begins a new chapter in her life, Furniss said: "I think the attributes that have allowed her to achieve such success – her determination, ability to work hard, her no excuses, no-compromise approach to the sport is going to set her up for life because those qualities will make her a success in whatever she does.
"It has been great to work with her and I have learned a lot from her too. To achieve what she has and to perform at the top level of swimming is incredible because it can be so brutal.
"She has had a fantastic career and nobody would ever have expected a British swimmer to do what she has done. She is a world champion, Commonwealth champion, a European Champion and has made four Olympic finals, won four medals and two of them gold – she is a world record holder.
"She is the best swimmer this country has ever had by a country mile. Rebecca has been a fantastic servant to the sport and sent a message out that it is possible. She had done it – she is a legend."
Furniss said after London, he felt she might swim in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. But he also understands the reasoning by the decision, with Adlington knowing she will be 27 come the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
"After the Olympics, it is never a good time to make a decision," he said. "She has had a break and the thing with Rebecca is that she only wants to be a winner and if she was going to carry on, she would want to improve.
"I think she could still improve but she had to think about what is required to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
"Rebecca would not be happy with a medal at the Commonwealths or making an Olympic final. She would want to feel she could win.
"To put it into perspective, had she won Olympic gold in the 800m freestyle in London, she would have been the oldest winner of that event. She is not somebody who can go to a major event thinking she cannot win. That is not her mindset. She is a winner. And I think that has helped her make her decision."