Aussie basketball legend Jackson announces retirement ahead of Rio Games

Canberra, March 31 (IANS) One of Australia’s most famous basketball players, Lauren Jackson, on Thursday announced her immediate retirement, after a knee injury ruled her out of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Jackson, 34, stands at 6’5″ (1.96 meters) and is widely regarded as one of Australia’s most successful sportspeople of all time. She won three Olympic silver medals (in 2000, 2004, 2008) and an Olympic bronze (2012) and competed in the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) for the Seattle Storm, reports Xinhua news agency.

Jackson, a three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) with the Storm, said her decision to retire came after persistent knee problems finally ruled her out of a tilt at a maiden Olympic gold medal.

“Today I’m announcing my retirement from the love of my life, basketball. It took me all over the world and gave me friendships forever,” Jackson said at a press conference on Thursday.

“Two years ago I hurt my knee playing in China. I thought I’d be back playing pretty quickly and I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

“Anyhow my knee ended up degenerating really, really fast and I got arthritis pretty quickly and since then I have had multiple surgeries trying to get back for the teams that I play with.

“In that time I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in December and in January I got an infection in my knee joint.”

Jackson said it would be tough not travelling to Rio to be part of the Olympic Games, something she has done four times previously.

“It breaks my heart that I can’t be (at the Olympics),” she said.

“But I will be supporting them in spirit and I know they are going to get gold.”

After the announcement on Thursday, tributes flowed from teammates, her coach and even the nation’s prime minister, who said Jackson was a role model for “all Australians”.

“Well done on a brilliant career, Lauren! You leave a legacy as a brilliant sportswoman and a role model for all Australians,” PM Malcolm Turnbull wrote on Twitter.

Jackson reportedly told teammates on Wednesday night before making the announcement on Thursday.

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