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Friday, 12th December 2008
In Japan Sports News,

Swimming champ drawers curtain on career

Japan's first ever freestyle Olympic gold medalist Ai Shibata has announced her retirement from swimming.

The 26-year-old, who took gold in the 800 metres event at the Athens Olympiad in 2004, told a press conference on Thursday (December 11th) she felt unable to adequately recover from a back injury that has plagued her career since 2006.

Shibata won gold in the 400-metre freestyle competition at the 2006 Pan Pacific Championships and picked up two bronze medals the following year in the World Aquatics Championships.

However, she claimed to be struggling with pain heading into the Beijing Olympic Games in which she failed to qualify for the finals of the 400 metres and 800 metres.

The retirement means that Shibata will not be competing at Japan Open 2009, one of the next big events on the country's swimming calendar.

On the official website, organisers of the gala have promised to deliver "the most exciting races since [the] Beijing Olympic Games".

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