New Zealand’s outstanding five-time World Championship medallist and Commonwealth Games Champion Lauren Boyle has announced her retirement from swimming.
She leaves the sport as a one of New Zealand’s all-time best. Boyle won two silver medals at the 2015 World Championships, is a Commonwealth Games gold and silver medallist and a three-time Olympian.
Boyle bids farewell to the sport after a hip injury in 2016 that eventually led to major surgery in May this year. She was selected for the team for last week’s World Championships in Budapest but was forced to withdraw due to hampered training efforts. As a result her swimming career wrapped up with her racing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she was not at her best.
“I've been in swimming for so many years it has been my life,” said Boyle. “I am grateful to have been able to achieve what I have. It ends in the wake of this injury trouble and rehab setbacks that tell me I can’t get back. I’m leaving with no regrets.”
The 29-year-old leaves behind a legacy in the sport that includes a remarkable 14 medals at major international meets. The best of these were an incredible five World Championship medals which is more than any New Zealand swimmer; a World Championship Short Course title; four Commonwealth Games medals including gold in the 800m freestyle and three Pan Pacific Championship medals. In 2014 she set the 1500m freestyle short course world record.
Boyle was one of the pioneers of the sport in this country in terms of leaving to train offshore. Her pathway is now the norm for many young New Zealand swimmers. She studied on scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, where she won a team national championship in 2009 and graduated from the Haas School of Business in 2011.
Former US Women’s Olympic coach and coach at UC Berkeley, Teri McKeever, says of Boyle: "Lauren’s journey in and out of the pool has been inspiring for so many. Her tremendous work ethic, attention to detail and quest to be the best version of herself is one I refer to often. Like any journey, Lauren's has had its highs and lows, and at the end of the day she has always represented herself and her country with grace and dignity. I am excited to see her take her champion's mindset into the next chapters of her life."
From UC Berkeley, Boyle moved back to New Zealand to train under former national coach Mark Regan. She improved rapidly and was a surprise to world swimming at the 2012 London Olympics when fourth in the 800m freestyle. This success led to continued improvement that year with her first major international win coming at the FINA World Short Course Championships in the 800m freestyle and a third in the 400m freestyle.
The following year Boyle’s progression as the leading Kiwi swimmer of her generation was confirmed when she won three medals at the FINA World Championships in Barcelona.
During this time she also had to deal with a turbulent training environment in New Zealand as coach Regan resigned. From the end of 2014 she left the Swimming NZ system to manage her own training that took her to Spain and Australia, finally settling with renowned Australian coach Denis Cotterell for the two years leading to Rio. Looking back at various coaching stints in her career Boyle remarked on her time under Cotterell. “He wanted swimmers who were ‘naturally tough’ (his term), he would say a naturally tough swimmer can be developed into a champion.”
When approached about Boyle’s retirement Denis Cotterell said “Longevity and continued success are the hallmarks of the true champion. Lauren certainly fits that criteria. She was an athlete who was prepared to do all it takes, and more, in and out of the pool, to give herself the best chance of success. In her events - the toughest - there could be no success if you weren't incredibly tough and prepared.”
Boyle said:“I want to thank all those who have supported me in their various roles through my career, my passion for swimming is still strong and I hope to have a continuing role in the sport.”