From Team Bath Futures to fulfilling Olympic medal dream – Siobhan-Marie O’Connor announces retirement from competitive swimming
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, who progressed from the Team Bath Futures programme to become an Olympic, World, Commonwealth and European medallist, has today announced her retirement from competitive swimming after an outstanding career.
O’Connor first took to the pool at the University of Bath Sports Training Village aged nine and went on to train there for almost all of the following 16 years, first under the guidance of first Mark Skimming and then David McNulty with the British Swimming National Centre Bath elite training group as she developed into one of Great Britain’s most decorated swimmers.
She qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games aged 16 and produced the performance of her career four years later in Rio, winning 200m individual medley silver in a British record time.
O’Connor also won 200m IM silver at World and European level, as well as Commonwealth gold at Glasgow 2014 – a title she successfully defended in Australia in 2018. She helped Great Britain to World and European relay titles too among a superb 24-medal haul on the senior international stage.
Her achievements were all the more impressive as O’Connor was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis shortly after the London Games, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease which left her fatigued and with a weakened immune system. Since 2016 she has been an ambassador for Crohn’s and Colitis UK, the UK’s leading charity in the battle against Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
“Stepping away from the sport I love has been the hardest decision I have ever had to make,” said O’Connor. “I am very disappointed that I haven’t been able to compete at the Tokyo Olympics this summer, but I am so proud of all that I have achieved in my career.
“I first fell in love with the sport when I was nine years old, and back then I never could have imagined all the places it would take me and the memories I would make. I followed my dream and I’m so glad I did.
“I can look back and say I was lucky enough to be able to achieve my dreams and all that I ever set out to do in the sport. I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities during my time as an athlete that I will forever be grateful for. I have travelled the world, worked with incredible and inspiring people and made friends for life.”
Coach McNulty, who worked with O’Connor at the University of Bath from 2011 to 2019, added: “We took Siobhan into the Bath National Centre aged 14 and she quickly became a great member of the squad. Shortly afterwards, Siobhan became European Junior champion in the 200m and 400m Individual Medley, and one key milestone then was when she gained selection for the home Olympic Games in London in 2012. She was the youngest member of the British Swimming team and went on to become an Olympic finalist at just 16.
“For me and everybody who is involved in swimming, the highlight of her career would be the amazing silver medal winning performance in the 200m IM at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in a time of 2:06.88, a swim I still feel is up there with one of the best British Olympic performances in history.
“This was also very special to myself, Siobhan and the team at the Bath National Centre because we all knew the day-to-day challenge she was coping with due to her ulcerative colitis.
“I would like to say a massive well done to Siobhan on an outstanding journey both in and outside of the pool. It was a huge pleasure and privilege to be a part of that as your coach. I’m so proud of you, have a great retirement.”