SASCHA KINDRED, one of Great Britain’s most successful Paralympic athletes, has retired from swimming at the age of 39.
It was a surprise as last month Sascha, who spent most of his childhood in Mossley and Oldham, revealed he was back in training after winning gold in Rio and focused on competing in this year’s world championships.
Sascha, awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours, explained: “After Rio I had a break, and the intention was to carry on.
“I was back in the pool at the back end of October and trained very well throughout November, December and January, but I felt my body couldn’t take another four-year cycle as an elite athlete.
“I produced my best-ever times in Rio and thought I would not be able to repeat them so it was time to call it a day and let the youngsters have their chance.
“Not a lot of people can say they’ve retired as a Paralympic champion and a world-record holder. It’s a good time to do it.
“I am happy with what I have done in my career and to have made the decision. It feels like a weight off my shoulders – now I can look at the sport from the other side as a spectator and move on to the next chapter of my life.”
Sascha certainly bowed out in style winning his seventh and final Paralympic gold in Rio in dramatic circumstances.
Competing in the heats of the SM6 200m individual medley, Sascha won the race, was disqualified and then reinstated after an appeal. And 10 hours later he was back in the pool to claim gold.
He said: “I don’t know how it happened and how I did it.
“From being that low after the morning swim, that angry and depressed, to suddenly turn it around and leave it all on the line in the final. It was pretty special.”
Sascha won four of his Paralympic golds in the 200m individual medley and three in the 100m, his two specialist events, though he has competed at other distances.
Sascha, who suffers from cerebral palsy, has been reflecting on a career that saw him win 62 major medals, including 13 at the Paralympics and 19 at world championships, the first of which was in 1994.
He said: “I was fortunate to be an international swimmer for 23 years and compete in six Paralympics when I won a silver in the 100m breaststroke.
“My first Paralympics were in Atlanta in 1996 and so much has changed since them in disabled sport with stadiums full which was not the case back then.
“In Atlanta we had a half-hour highlights slot on television, in Rio Channel 4 were covering it 24 hours each day.”
Sascha says he is taking a few months off to “celebrate” his career and spend time with his wife Nyree, also a Paralympic gold medal winning swimmer, and five-year-old daughter Ella.
He also plans to continue visiting schools and other groups to show them his medals and hopefully inspire future generations, but is undecided whether he wants to pursue a career in coaching.
Sascha attended both Mossley Hollins and Kaskenmoor Schools and it was while living in Mossley that he and his twin brother took up swimming at Copley Baths.
And Sascha, who now lives in Herefordshire, says it was in Oldham where his love for swimming was born and nurtured.
He said: “I would like to thank everyone in Oldham who helped me kick off my career.
“People who influenced me included Philip Ball, my coach at Oldham Metro, and Duncan Prince, my PE teacher at Kaskenmoor School. The support I had from them and others was amazing.”