Swimming-Australia breaststroker Hodges retires with 'hips of 60-year-old'

FILE PHOTO: Commonwealth Games - Swimming - Women's 100m Breaststroke - Medal Ceremony - Sandwell Aquatics Centre, Birmingham, Britain - August 2, 2022 Bronze medallist Australia's Chelsea Hodges celebrates on the podium during the medal ceremony REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian swimmer Chelsea Hodges, who helped the nation claim the women's 4x100 metres medley relay gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, has retired from international swimming at the age of 22 after struggling with injuries.

Hodges swam the breaststroke leg of the medley relay final in Tokyo as Australia pipped the United States for the title.

The Queenslander had hoped to swim one last Games with Australia's "Dolphins" in Paris but decided not to risk her quality of life and nursing career after multiple hip surgeries.

"I had my first hip operation at 15 ... and another one last year. I actually have the hips of a 60-year-old," she said in a Swimming Australia statement on Friday.

"I wanted one last chance at the Games but after six cortisone injections, I had to make a decision on my future.

"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."

Hodges's retirement two weeks out from national Olympic trials leaves swimming power Australia without their third-fastest 100m breaststroker of all time (one minute and 5.99 seconds).

Only the retired duo of Leisel Jones and Sarah Katsoulis posted quicker times.

With Hodges battling fitness problems since Tokyo, Australia have struggled for depth in women's breaststroke.

In February, Abbey Harkin swam the breaststroke leg in a modest 1:07.21 as Australia beat a weak field for the 4x100m medley relay title at the World Championships in Doha.

However, the Australians were a distant second behind the powerful U.S. team at last year's World Championships in Fukuoka, where American Lilly King's breaststroke split of 1:04.93 was two seconds quicker than Harkin's.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sonali Paul)

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