• Kelly Sotherton's Olympic column

'I can retire with my head held high'

Kelly Sotherton June 6, 2012
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It's been a bit of a whirlwind since I announced my retirement, but to be honest it's just a relief it is all out in the open.

The decision was made a couple of weeks ago after I had a back operation for a prolapsed disk so I had a while to come to terms with the news.

I picked up the injury in training the week before the heptathlon competition in Italy. I didn't train before I went out there but I had an epidural to ease the problem and I thought I would be OK.

As the start of the competition neared, all my adrenaline immediately disappeared and I started to feel my back - I think it was probably tension. I went there thinking that as long as the pain doesn't come I will be OK, but I was hurting from the first event so how I managed to high jump I don't know.

The frustrating thing is I was running really well in the 200m, I think I was leading when I pulled up. It was when I went to step it up a gear and accelerate off the bend that I felt the excruciating pain in my back and had to stop.

I have struggled with back injuries for so long, it was always going to happen again at some point I was just hoping I could keep it at bay until after the heptathlon and after I had hopefully qualified for London 2012.

The aim was always to try my best and I truly gave it my all. I know I failed but I failed doing what I love and I have no regrets. I've ended my career knowing I did everything I possibly could to achieve my dream which is more than most athletes could hope for. I could have plodded through at half-pace and my body could have coped but what is the point?

My body let me down and there was nothing I could have done about it. I took a gamble and unfortunately it didn't pay off but that is life and I have to move on. There was nothing I could have done differently - my only regret was not winning a medal in '08 but apart from that I can retire with my head held high.

I'm hoping I'll be involved in London 2012 in some way, shape or form. It has only been a few days since I announced my retirement but I'm hoping there will be opportuntiites in the media, especially after my involvement in the World Indoor Athletics Championships in March which I really enjoyed.

Sotherton is still hoping to be involved in London 2012 in some guise © Getty Images

It's sad that I won't be involved as an athlete but it's also a very exciting time for me. I'm looking forward to going where I want, when I want. It is such a nice feeling of freedom. I've got a list of things I want to do now I've retired. One of my first challenges will be to run the London Marathon next year. I only intend to do it once, but I know a lot of people say that then get the bug and keep running marathons for the rest of their lives

I also want to have a crack at a triathlon - just as a hobby, nothing too serious. I'm looking forward to cycling round the West Midlands and I can't wait to learn to ski.

I have received so many kind messages on Twitter, I have been overwhelmed by the support. I haven't competed for a while but it's nice that so many people still recognise what I achieved. I may have hung up my spikes, but I like to think it won't be the last you see of me.

My coach Aston Moore has stuck by me for the last eight years, to be honest it is probably harder for him than it is for me - to see someone you work so closely with struggle there is nothing you can do about it.

This is the start of the rest of my life and I'm really excited to see what happens next!

Kelly Sotherton is an ambassador for GlaxoSmithKline, the Official Laboratory Services Provider to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games'

Kelly Sotherton is a GB Olympic medalist

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Kelly Sotherton is a GB Olympic medalist Kelly Sotherton is an Olympic and World Championship medal winning athlete. Writing for ESPN, Sotherton will give a personal insight into her life as an athlete.