RICHMOND'S Joanne Jackson has announced her retirement from competitive swimming, bringing an end to the most successful post-war aquatics career in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

Jackson, who was a member of Derwentside ASC in Consett, won an Olympic bronze medal behind Rebecca Adlington in the final of the 400m freestyle at 2008's Beijing Games.

She broke the world record in the same event during the early rounds of the 2009 World Championships, and went on to claim a silver medal. She also picked up a silver in the 800m freestyle and a bronze in the 4x200m relay.

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She competed in her third Olympics in London this summer, but has opted to call time on her competitive career at the age of 26.

“I feel so lucky to have been able to compete to an international level for so many years, and to have been to three Olympic Games,” said Jackson, whose sister, Nicola, competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. “I would like to thank everyone who has supported me along the way.

“I have been fortunate to have some great sponsors who stuck by me through all the ups and downs, and British Swimming's coaches and support team have been awesome. I'm now looking at new opportunities to start a Swim Academy and begin a brand new career in events.”

Jackson, who left the region to train at one of British Swimming's high-performance centres in Loughborough, made her Olympic debut as a 17-year-old in Athens.

Her international breakthrough came when she won silver medals at both the European Championships and Commonwealth Games in 2006, and her greatest moment came two years later in Beijing.

However, her career has not been without its traumas as she was diagnosed with water on the lungs in 2009 that led to severe asthma.

At times, her asthma was so bad she would develop serious rib problems that prevented her from breathing properly, and she was unable to train throughout the whole of 2010 and much of 2011.

She returned to the pool last year after extensive treatment though, and performed strongly enough to qualify for this summer's Olympic Games, where she finished seventh in her 400m heat and was part of the 4x200m freestyle relay squad that finished fifth in the final.

Michael Scott, British Swimming national performance director, said: “To be a three-time Olympian, an Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth medallist, and to have set a world record over 400m freestyle in 2009 are all outstanding achievements. On behalf of all at British Swimming, I would like to wish Jo all the best in her new endeavours.”

Jackson recently completed a 450km charity bike ride across Zambia with fellow swimmers Adlington, Mel Marshall and Ross Davenport, and will be a guest of honour at next week's Northern Echo Local Heroes Awards.