Olympic breaststroke champion Soni retires

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17 Apr 2019

“Before I move away from swimming too much, I want to take the time to give back,” Soni said in a statement released by USA Swimming.


“The swimming community has become my family and I want to do my best to inspire the next generation and to share some of the things I’ve learned.”

Soni competed at two Olympics and won medals – three gold and three silver – in each of the six events she contested and is the only woman to successfully defend an Olympic breaststroke title.

Raised in New Jersey by her Hungarian-born immigrant parents, Soni stormed onto the Olympic stage in Beijing in 2008 with a stunning upset win over Leisel Jones in the 200 breaststroke final, breaking the Australian’s world record.

The following year, at the 2009 world championships in Rome, Soni won her first world titles, in the 100m.

But her joy was tempered by the loss of her 200m world record, at a meet where the now-banned polyurethane bodysuits were allowed and produced a slew of world records, many of which still stand.

Soni won the 100-200 breaststroke double, and a relay gold medal, at the 2011 world championships and was widely expected to repeat that feat at the 2012 London Olympics after months of gruelling training in the Pacific Ocean near her California home.

Soni, who needed surgery when she was a teenager to repair an irregular heartbeat, got off to a bad start when she was narrowly beaten for the gold in the 100 by Lithuanian schoolgirl Ruta Meilutyte.

But she recovered to win the 200, reclaiming her world record in the process, then helped the United States win the women’s medley relay in what proved to be her last appearance at an international event.

“You will always be the greatest female breaststroker ever in my book,” tweeted Rowdy Gaines, who won three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angles Olympics.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Julian Linden in New York; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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