Paralympic legend Michael McKillop has retired from athletics at the age of 31.
The four-time Paralympic gold medallist indicated his intention to retire after a disappointing Games in Tokyo and this evening he posted a message on social media confirming his decision.
"I have some amazing memories to take away. From competing at my first European Companionships back in 2005 age 15 to Tokyo 2020 age 31, I am so fortunate to have had such an amazing career within the sport I love and this has been one of the hardest decisions I've had to make.
"I believe that announcing my retiring today is the right thing to do. I’ve always said I wanted to compete and be competitive at the highest level in sport for the island of Ireland. I feel like I’ve done that over the last 16 years."
Competing in the T37 class, Ballymena native McKillop was untouchable in the 800m for years, claiming gold in three World Championships between 2006 and 2015.
He won 800m gold at Beijing Paralympics in 2008, completed the 800m-1500m double at London 2012, before adding another 1500m gold at Rio 2016.
He appeared to be ready to hang up his spikes in the wake of the T38 1500m final at the Tokyo Games.
McKillop finished in a disappointing eighth place in Tokyo and in the immediate aftermath gave an emotional interview where he said that he had competed in his final Paralympic games and strongly hinted that he was ready to walk away from athletics entirely.
In interviews a week later he rowed back on this, but McKillop has decided now is the time to walk away.
☘ Announcement ☘ pic.twitter.com/jwnlW4VW4Z— Dr. Michael McKillop MBE (@TeamMcKillop) November 25, 2021
In his statement he paid tribute to his parents, posting: "They gave me the courage to embrace my differences, encouraging me to use them to my advantage. These differences allowed me to dream of becoming an international runner one day.
"Something I took full advantage of over the last 16 years. They have given me the platform to become an accomplished athlete on the world stage, helping my dreams come true.
"I am happily running away from competitive Paralympic sport knowing that I gave it my all. See you all on a start line somewhere soon to have some fun."
Speaking about the retirement of Michael McKillop, Paralympics Ireland CEO Miriam Malone said: "Michael McKillop will forever be remembered as one of the greatest athletes of all time on the track and a true trailblazer for Paralympic sport off the track.
"Michael's stature in Paralympic sport was perfectly illustrated by the reaction of his fellow athletes at the finish line of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.
"Everyone involved with Paralympic sport would like to thank Michael for what he has done for Paralympic sport. We would like to congratulate him on an incredible career and wish him all of the best in the future."