After four years at UCLA, two-time Canadian Olympian Kate Richardson said she is officially retired. "I'm ready and excited to move on to the next chapter of my life," she told IG.
Richardson said that, at the beginning of the 2005-2006 NCAA season, she considered training for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "I think it came from the fact that I just couldn't imagine retiring," she said. "I love training and competing, and wasn't ready to give it up yet. But I realized that I'll always love it, and that if I kept going just for that reason then I'd keep training forever! I'm absolutely satisfied with my career and all the experiences I've had, and I don't have anything left to prove."
Richardson completed her final season of eligibility at UCLA by winning the floor exercise title at the 2006 NCAA Championships in April. She said she plans to move back to Vancouver after she graduates next year and to take a year off to work and travel before applying to graduate school.
"Ideally, I'm hoping to do the physiotherapy program at UBC (University of British Columbia)," said Richardson. "I've always been fascinated with the process of rehab, and a lot of therapists have been a huge part of my gymnastics career. My physios have helped me in so many ways, and I'd love to be able to do the same for other athletes."
Coached during her international career by David Kenwright, Richardson competed in two Olympic Games and two World Championships. In major all-around competition, she placed 19th at the 1999 Worlds in Tianjin; 15th at the 2000 Sydney Olympics; 16th at the 2001 Worlds in Ghent; and 18th at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Richardson won the all-around title at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
At the 2004 Athens Games, Richardson became the first Canadian woman to make an Olympic floor exercise final. She finished sixth on the event.
Richard said it is difficult to choose a career highlight, but cites her victory at the 2002 Commonwealth Games as a landmark. Eight years earlier, Richardson's father had taken her to watch the all-around at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria as a 10th-birthday present.
"That was the first big international meet I was able to watch, and it was also the first time I had seen a Canadian do really well at a big meet like that, as Stella Umeh won the all around," said Richardson. "I was so inspired after seeing Stella compete, and I made it my goal to achieve what she had. So going to the (2002) Commonwealth Games was a thrill for me, after having been so inspired by it when I was younger. To be able to win was kind of like my career had come full circle."
Richardson's back surgery six months prior to the Games reinforced her desire for the sport. "I had been really lucky until that point, and hadn't really had to deal with any major injuries like that, so to be stuck in a back brace for two months was pretty torturous," she said. "During my recovery, though, I realized how much I loved gymnastics and how much it meant to me. I really had to dig deep to be able to be ready in time to compete at Commonwealths, so I really learned a lot about myself and about how hard I could push myself. Being able to come back from that injury was really satisfying, so it made that meet even more special for me."
In NCAA competition, Richardson finished third all-around, first (tie) on uneven bars, first on balance beam and first with her team in 2003; fourth (tie) all-around, third on uneven bars and first with her team in 2004; fourth on balance beam and third (tie) with her team in 2005; and first on floor exercise and third on vault in 2006. At UCLA, she was coached by UCLA head coach Valorie Kondos-Field, Chris Waller and Marshall Nelson.
Richardson, who was recently awarded an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, said she has no regrets.
"I've been really lucky to have so many great memories from my career," she said. "It was a great ride. I really cherish all the memories gymnastics has given me, and I would do it all again in a second if I could."