Swimming New Zealand has praised the contribution of Southland's Natalie Wigersma who has announced her retirement from the sport.
Wiegersma, 22, first came into prominence as a 16-year-old when she won a gold medal in the 100m backstroke at the inaugural World Youth Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 2006.
She continued to develop, winning a medal in the FINA World Cup two years later, progressing to the national elite team to compete at the Pan Pacific Championships and Commonwealth Games in 2010.
Wiegersma's best effort was with her fourth placing in the 200m individual medley in Delhi, where she missed a medal by a fingertip, setting a New Zealand record in the process.
She was forced out of the final of the 400m individual medley with illness and was troubled with injury throughout 2011, returning to qualify in both medley distances for the London Olympics.
Swimming New Zealand said Wiegersma had proven herself to be an outstanding young person who showed that a swimmer can succeed without living in a major city.
"Natalie and her coach Jeremy Duncan forged a successful combination based in Invercargill where they have received excellent local support over the years," said Swimming New Zealand Acting CEO, Mark O'Connor.
"Natalie has displayed a remarkable work ethic and commitment. She lives in a small farming town, driving into Invercargill and return twice a day for nearly 10 years, with the strong support of her family.
"She is a national record holder and a world champion in her own right. Naturally we would have loved to see her continue in the sport but she knows best when the time is right to move to new challenges in her life.
"We know that the outstanding attributes she showed as a swimmer will stand her in good stead to be equally successful in anything she takes on and we wish her well."
Wiegersma said the time was right for her to move on from the sport.
"It has been an incredible journey and I have had some wonderful experiences with a lot of highs and lows but I wouldn't change a thing," she said.
"I will forever hold on to the memories I have of my time swimming while representing Waverley, Southland and New Zealand. I am grateful for how swimming has shaped me into the person I am today and I am very appreciative of the people who have been a part of it."
Wiegersma holds one New Zealand open record and 12 national age group records over short and long course.
- The Southland Times