Three-time Paralympic champion Hannah Russell has announced her retirement from swimming after achieving success on the international stage for over a decade.

With a silver and bronze on her international debut at the Berlin 2011 European Championships, Russell burst onto the Para swimming scene at just 14-years-old, marking the start of a glittering career in which she attained a total of 11 titles at Paralympic, World Championship and European level.

The Surrey-born swimmer shone at London 2012, her first Paralympic Games, kicking her campaign off with S12 400m Freestyle silver before adding two bronze medals. A first global gold followed at the 2013 World Championships with Russell then going on to top the podium twice at the Rio 2016 Paralympics, setting a new world record in the S12 100m Backstroke before sprinting to her second title days later in the S12 50m Freestyle event.

Hannah winning gold at Tokyo 2020

In the run up to Tokyo 2020, Russell took some time away from the water to focus on her mental health and wellbeing, and during this period she completed her first-class Sports Science degree from the University of Salford before turning her attention back to the pool.

Retaining the S12 100m Backstroke Paralympic title in Japan in 2021 stands out a as a ‘special highlight’, and Russell’s achievements for services to swimming were recognised in the 2022 New Year’s Honours list with an OBE.

A gold, two silvers and a relay bronze at her final World Para Swimming Championships in Madeira this summer were followed with silver at her first Commonwealth Games at Birmingham 2022.

Speaking of her retirement, Hannah said: “The time feels right for me. After three Paralympic Games and 35 international medals, finishing with a debut Commonwealth Games this summer was such an enjoyable experience - to be part of an integrated swimming team was really special.

Hannah in the pool at London 2012

“In the pool, I have challenged myself both mentally and physically, working incredibly hard to get that extra one per cent needed to be the best, and from a sporting perspective I can say that I achieved everything I set out to achieve. I’m leaving the sport on a high as I move on to a new challenge and embrace a career in primary teaching.

“I witnessed the legacy and impact the 2012 London Paralympics had on all young children and believe inspiring grassroots sports is where our new champions will be exposed. It is vital that more visually impaired athletes are encouraged and given the confidence to take up swimming as I have always felt safe and secure in the water. It is so exciting to see the inclusion of a visually impaired relay for Paris 2024, which shows how far our sport and my VI category has progressed.

“Giving back to the sport has always been important to me. I’m looking forward to transitioning the skills I have learnt from my elite swimming career across to my teaching and making a difference in my community. My motto to all children and young people is ‘if you believe, you can achieve’.

British Para-Swimming Head Coach Rob Aubry said: “Hannah has been an outstanding team member for British Para-Swimming over the past decade, achieving success at multiple Paralympics, World and European Championships.

“With her backstroke Paralympic title retained in Tokyo and world records intact, Hannah undoubtedly leaves the sport on a high - we wish her all the very best as she embarks on a new chapter and look forward to seeing her continue to succeed in her future ambitions outside of the pool.”

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