It is almost only in professional sport that one can deliberately retire at 25. From afar, you can say to yourself “wow, so good, they’ve got money and their whole life ahead of them afterwards”, but often the reasons are a little darker (I swear to you that we’re not so bad, sitting comfortably in our sofa).
Athletes who retire so early often suffer repeated injuries, or no longer hold the pressure around their activity, and as mental health among athletes remains a taboo, they are not necessarily followed and prefer to retire.
Little recap of athletes who stopped too soon and that we regret a lot (sniff).
1. Ashleigh Barty (tennis), the world number 1 retires at only 25 years old
At only 25 years old, the one who recently won the Australian Open and was therefore world number 1 has decided to end her career. Everyone in tennis and ourselves were very surprised by this decision. Why end his career at the top of his game?
The Australian simply explained that winning the Australian Open was the best consecration of her career and that she wanted to stop on this victory. In addition, she explains that she “no longer had the motivation, the emotional will and everything it takes to surpass herself at the highest level”, she also declares “I am exhausted, I have nothing left to giving on a physical level.”
She therefore leaves her place to the Polish Iga Swiatek, who becomes world number 1 after her victories at Indian Wells and Miami.
2. Björn Borg (tennis), “the iceBorg” stops his career at the age of 26
“The iceBorg” as we liked to call him, like Ashleigh Barty, stopped his career quite young, at the age of 26. The Swedish tennis player was a real tennis star, at the height of his career between the 70s and 80s. He long held the record of winning six consecutive titles at Roland-Garros between 1974 and 1981 before Rafael Nadal, as is the case with his record of consecutive victories at Wimbledon (5 wins) which he shares with Roger Federer.
And yet, despite all his impressive records, Borg had decided to stop playing tennis at “only” 26 years old, in 1983. It must be said that he had started tennis very early and already had a 10-year long career. He then played again a little in 1991, but only by invitation or for gala matches. Borg’s retirement created a great void in the world of tennis as he was an internationally renowned player, but the Swede explained that he was too tired from competitions and the pressure around tournaments, moreover he was very attached to his old wooden racquet and refused to take more modern racquets which, over time, put him at a disadvantage against his opponents. Borg preferred to stop early and continue his career more “quietly” in matches with much less at stake, we can only understand that.
3. Marco Van Basten (football), AC Milan player retired in 1993 at age 28
Marco Van Basten was a Dutch international player who notably won the Golden Ball three times (in 1988, 1989 and 1992). He was an emblematic player for AC Milan in the 90s, but following several ankle injuries (two operations suffered), he gradually began to move away from the field.
He retired in 1993 and the Champions League final against OM in 1993 would be his last appearance in a professional game. His departure will obviously be a shock for all the players, sporting directors and supporters of AC Milan. Nevertheless, Marco Van Basten later converted into a coach who will work for big teams like Ajax Amsterdam, or the national team of the Netherlands.
4. Sebastian Deisler (football), retires at 27
Sebastian Deisler, was a German attacking midfielder who notably evolved at Bayern Munich and who was part of the Mannschaft squad for 6 years. He was considered a very promising player because of his great athletic qualities, but repeated injuries and his psychological state put an end to his career.
In 5 years at Bayern, he only played 25 games per season. He finally decides to retire at only 27 years old. Sebastian Deisler explains that he suffered from depression and could not play at his true level. Indeed, Deisler was under enormous pressure from German supporters who saw him as the new generation of national football, on top of that he had been very badly received (and even the word is small because he had notably received threats from dead, nice) when he transferred to Bayern in 2002. He was injured at the time and the supporters did not understand the choice of this transfer. A whirlwind career for a player who deserved more support and following, but as we already know, mental health is still very taboo in professional sport, and that’s why he prefers to retire from professional sport early.
5. Clément Lefert (swimming), decides to end his career at just 25 to devote himself to his studies of finance
Clément Lefert, the French swimmer, Olympic champion in the 4x100m relay at the London Games, had decided to end his career at just 25 to devote himself to his studies of finance at EDHEC in Nice (yes, we didn’t either). don’t really understand this choice).
He therefore became a financial analyst at Andurand Capital Management, an investment fund specializing in oil, frankly swimming is still much more classy but everyone has their own tastes after all, we don’t judge (well if a little anyway).
6. Michael Phelps (swimming), retires for the first time at 27 after his 18 Olympic medals
No need to introduce him to you, the American torpedo Michael Phelps is quite simply the athlete with the most medals in the history of the Olympic Games with 28 medals including 23 gold. In 2012 after winning 4 medals at the London Olympics, Michael Phelps decided to leave the pools to everyone’s surprise.
We will then learn that he (also) suffered from severe depression and that he no longer had the desire to swim, even though he was at the peak of his career and was only 27 years old. . Finally 2 years later, he returned to competition and then participated in the Rio Games in 2016. At these Games, he won 5 medals, including two individually, and became the most successful athlete in the history of the Games. It was after this victory that he really retired from the pools, at the age of 31.
7. Laure Manaudou (swimming) retires at 27 (to be seen)
Another early start in the world of swimming (definitely), and this time it’s our French star Laure Manaudou. Laure Manaudou had already announced her first retirement in 2009, explaining that she wanted to retrain as an interior decorator, yeah it’s weird, but once again we don’t judge.
Well finally after 3 years of absence, she resumed her career “for fun” at the London Games in 2012, however her mediocre performances will push her to stop definitively (she is eliminated from the series of 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke) .
She thus announces her retirement at the young age of 27 (after almost 10 years of career) at the same time as her second pregnancy, which certainly plays on this decision.
8. Just Fontaine (football) left the football pitch at just 28 years old
Just Fontaine is considered one of the greatest players in the history of French football. He played in particular at the Stade de Reims and in the selection of the blues with which he distinguished himself during the 1958 World Cup (where France finished 3rd), Just Fontaine is to date the 4th top scorer in the World Cup, with 13 goals in one edition.
Nevertheless, he had to end his career prematurely because of a recurrent double fracture of the leg, at only 28 years old, to the great regret of all French supporters.
9. Eric Cantona (football): the King retires at the age of 30
30 may seem relatively old to you compared to the athletes we have just told you about, but for a player of the rank of Eric Cantona, it was almost an early retirement.
Cantona was at the peak of his football in the 96/97 season when he announced his departure from Manchester United and the world of football. The player explained that he had always wanted to retire at his best level, not afterwards. Cantona is still celebrated at Old Trafford by Manchester United fans today, who sing the Marseillaise in his memory.
10. Gymnast Katelyn Ohashi
Finally, we end this top with a lesser known athlete, but who retired particularly early.
This is the American gymnast Katelyn Ohashi who announced her retirement in 2019, at only 22 years old. And yet, the American athlete was extremely promising: she had obtained the perfect score of 10 in a national competition. His performance, performed on a medley of Michael Jackson and Tina Turner, was widely shared on the networks, generating several million views. Only a few months after this performance, Ohashi said he wanted to retire from professional sport, without really explaining why.