The end of an era

Duane Rocha, at the  Inacua pool in  Malaga, ahead of  the Spanish  Championships.
Duane Rocha, at the Inacua pool in Malaga, ahead of the Spanish Championships. / Salvador Salas
  • The European gold medallist and two-time Olympian has joined Carolina Navarro and Borja Vivas in winding down their careers

  • Mijas swimmer Duane Rocha has announced her retirement at the age of 31

Is the curtain being drawn on a generation of Malaga sportsmen and women? First padel star Carolina Navarro said she was approaching the end, then Borja Vivas told SUR that he was considering retirement. Last Thursday, Duane Rocha (Brazil, 1988) beat them to it by confirming that she was calling it a day, making the announcement on 'La tarde aquí y ahora' on Canal Sur Televisión.

The Brazil-born Mijas swimmer, European champion in the 200-metre backstroke and two-time Olympian (London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016) is giving it all up.

"I had decided to do it and the start of the month but I've been waiting for the right time to announce it," she told SUR, moments after the announcement. "It wasn't a decision I took lightly," she said, explaining that she wanted to make the most of an invitation to appear on the TV to clear up what she meant in a post published on her Instagram account.

"A while ago I put up a photo that said: 'It's been quite a journey but it's time to say goodbye'. In reality that was the moment I realised that I wanted to start a new adventure but it is a big decision so I wanted to take my time and be completely sure about it," she explained. Just a few weeks ago, rumours of her retirement started to circulate which Rocha herself moved to deny.

"There was crying, a lot of it, while I was considering what to do. Every time I thought that this stage of my life was over, my heart sunk. I have so many memories of times I enjoyed a lot, as well as difficult moments when I've had to fight to get back on my feet. From all of them I can say that I've taken out the positive side and I have learned a lot, both personally and professionally," she said.

The high point in her career, without doubt, came at the European Championships in Berlin in 2014, where she claimed gold and set a new national record in the 200-metre backstroke (2:09.37). However, Rocha wanted to highlight her medal win in Budapest in 2010: "I had spent so many years trying to break the barrier and put myself among the elite," she said.

Highs and lows

Rocha was a semifinalist in the 100-metre backstroke in the 2012 Olympic Games in London and came 13th in the 200 metres overall. However, her performance in Rio 2016 was disappointing. "I wanted to show my best self there [the country where she was born] but it was a low point for me. I felt depressed and I couldn't swim as I wanted to."

In 2017, however, Rocha was feeling like herself once more and won two gold medals (50m and 100m backstroke) at the Spanish Championships held on home turf, at Inacua in Malaga. "This is why I thought now was a good time to finish," she said.

In a public letter, the Malaga swimmer wanted to thank the numerous people who helped her during her 15-year career across various clubs, starting at CN Mijas. "I have only thanks for all those who have been part of this journey for having done their bit to make it so exciting."

So what's next for Duane Rocha? The swimmer will not be too far away from a pool, which has been her natural habitat for so many years. She plans to organise two summer swimming camps in the Canary Islands (first week of August) and Cantabria (first week of September), but professionally she hopes to work as a flight attendant out of her Mijas base. "I already have two job interviews," she said.

"It is not easy to face this new journey of my life. On the one hand I'm scared to death, and on the other hand I'm excited and impatient to start living new experiences that will keep me learning and growing as a person. For each end there is always a new beginning," the note concluded.