Plymouth diving star ends her career with retirement at 25
BROOKE GRADDON has announced her retirement from diving after a highly-successful career dogged by injury and bad luck, Herald Sport can reveal.
Plymouth Diving's Graddon said it will be a real wrench to no longer be a part of a sport she has graced for the best part of 16 years.
Graddon had been a member of city club's diving quartet of Tom Daley, Tonia Couch and Sarah Barrow, which flew the flag most successfully for Plymouth and country at countless competitions around the world.
The 25-year-old, though, insisted she simply couldn't face another four years 'of pain, frustration and possible disappointment chasing down her dream of competing at an Olympic Games'.
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The Great Britain and England international 10m platform diver said she is bowing out knowing she had 'always given it her best shot'.
But Graddon admitted she would always wonder what might have been had Lady Luck been more benevolent.
Since 2006 when she competed for England at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Graddon has suffered ill-timed back and neck injuries and also spent time out of the sport recovering from glandular fever.
Only last year she had an operation to correct yet another injury – this time on her right shoulder – in a bid to win a place at the London Olympics.
Graddon considered quitting in 2010 due in part to injury and also in frustration at the lack of opportunities to compete at the highest level, but did not want to give up the chance of diving at the London Olympics.
The highlights of her career included claiming an individual bronze medal at the 2008 European Championships and becoming British champion from the tower, and winning Great Britain a place at that year's Beijing Olympics.
An emotional Graddon told Herald Sport that it was the hardest decision she has ever had to make, but feels it is the right one.
"Yes, I'm retiring from diving altogether through injuries, the latest being the shoulder, and feeling that trying to make Rio in four years' time would be a bit too much for me.
"But I'm also retiring with frustration as I've had more than my fair share of bad luck since Melbourne six years' ago.
"Luck has not been on my side and I've just had enough of battling with the sport, really.
"I feel I've put everything into it and when you don't get what you know you deserve back it's hard to take.
"So, I feel the time now is right for me to call it a day and move on in my life and try something else other than diving.
"The key disappointments for me have been definitely not making London – as appearing at an Olympics was my dream – full stop.
"I was very disappointed at not making the Beijing Games, but accepted it, moved on and trained for London.
"But knowing (coaches) Andy (Banks) and (Li) Peng believed in me and my own determination to try and win a place kept me going.
"When that didn't happen, it was like the final breaking point for me and I was going to retire then, but didn't want it to deflect from the Olympics."
Graddon said the operation to repair torn shoulder ligaments last October meant that she had little preparation going into the National Championships and Olympic trials this year.
"Because of my shoulder injury I got taken off (sports) funding in January and so I wasn't picked for the bigger competitions like the World Cup and all the major internationals, whereas the others did.
"With help from my parents and my work I paid to enter competitions myself to try and get some good performances, which after the years in the sport, I shouldn't have had to do.
"But it was my dream to make London."
Graddon said she was grateful to the support of Plymouth Diving coaches Banks and Peng, her club team-mates, her parents and her physio and now Australia-based coach Sam Grevett.
And while there were knocks along the road, Graddon said she had plenty of great moments, too.
She said: "Winning my European bronze medal in 2008 was the best feeling ever, especially after coming back from glandular fever.
"It was a great year, even though I missed out on Beijing, as I competed at the World Championships and qualified an Olympic place for Great Britain.
"I'm still very proud that I'm the only British girl to have won an individual European medal to this day."
Coach Banks paid tribute to Graddon saying: "It's sad and we're going to miss her.
"Of all Brooke's qualities and she has many, the one abiding factor that stands out for me is her dedication and hard work even when the odds were stacked against her because of injuries.
"She is a great role model for anyone in sport trying to overcome adversity."
Grevett, who now lives in Perth Western Australia paid her own tribute to her former charge, telling Herald Sport: "I hope that in the years to come when she looks back over her career, it will be defined by what she did achieve, rather than what she didn't.
"There are not too many people in this world who end their sporting careers having been a member of Commonwealth and World Championship teams, or with junior and senior European medals."