Sydney, Oct 29: Praise poured in for Australian swimming great Grant Hackett on Tuesday after the athlete known as "Captain Fantastic" announced his retirement from the pool.
The 28-year-old, who won three Olympic gold medals and took first place at 10 World Championship events during his career, told his peers at a dinner on Monday night he would be leaving the sport behind.
"Swimming has been fantastic but you have to know when you are done," Hackett said after a standing ovation at the Swimmer of the Year awards in Sydney.
Hackett, who missed out on a historic third straight gold medal in the 1500m at the Beijing Olympics by just 0.69 seconds, said he had contemplated continuing because he was swimming so well.
"It was the best swimming I had done in seven years," he said, adding that he had even considered competing at the 2012 London Games.
"But that was a definite no-no."
Hackett, who dominated the 1500m for more than a decade, winning four world and two Olympic titles before being pipped by Tunisian Oussama Mellouli at the Water Cube in August, said other interests had begun to overtake swimming.
"I think after a while the passion to do this does get worn down a little bit and those other passions start to outweigh (it)," he said.
The lanky Queenslander said he was content with what he had achieved since bursting onto the Australian scene at the 1998 world championships in Perth as a 17-year-old, where he lost the 400m final to a 15-year-old Ian Thorpe.
The pair went on to help Australia's swim team to the nation's best run of success since the golden days of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Hackett's former nemesis Kieren Perkins, who he beat in the 1500m at the Sydney Olympics, led the praise for the swimmer.
"Grant is an exceptional athlete, and moreover, an exceptional human being,' Perkins said.
The new golden girl of Australian swimming, Stephanie Rice, said Hackett's retirement would be a "huge loss" for the team.
"But at the same time, I don't think he'll be too far away from keeping us motivated and being there for the sport," said Rice, who won three gold medals in her Olympic debut in Beijing.
Hackett, who married singer Candice Alley in 2007, has recently begun reading the weekend sports news on the Nine Network in Melbourne and plans to embark on a career in finance with Westpac.
The swimmer, who will be remembered for overcoming a collapsed lung to win the 1500m event in Athens in 2004, retires with two gold medals in his pet event and one for his role as a 4x200m heat swimmer in 2000.
"The proudest moment for me is every time you are overseas at one of those international meets and you get to stand on the No.1 dais and hear the anthem and see the flag go up the middle pole, hopefully with the US flag on one of the other poles," he said.
"It's been a great time and it's over soon so make the most of it," he told swimmers at the Monday night dinner. "Thanks for the memories."