Kyle Shewfelt retires from gymnastics

Kyle Shewfelt, Olympic gold medallist and Canada's comeback story of the 2008 Beijing Games, announced his retirement from gymnastics on Thursday.

He broke both legs 11 months before the 2008 Olympic Games and then accomplished the unthinkable: he came back and competed for Canada. 

In 2004, Kyle Shewfelt made Canadian history with a gold medal performance in the floor exercise at the Athens Games, capturing Canada's first-ever Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics.

Now, the 27-year-old Calgary native and three-time Olympian is calling it a career, announcing his retirement Thursday on his blog.

"After much thought and consideration, I have come to the decision that it’s time to hang up the grips, put away the stinky gym shoes, remove the singlet, take my hands out of the chalk bucket and start embarking on new journeys," he wrote.

"Today is a bittersweet day. I am really overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia, excitement, sadness and anticipation."

Shewfelt will make the official announcement Thursday at 11 a.m. MT at the University of Calgary's Olympic Oval Lounge, where he'll be joined by coach Tony Smith and teammate Nathan Gafuik.

Ambassador with Gymnastics Canada

A three-time world championship bronze medallist, four-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and three-time World Cup Finals silver medallist, Shewfelt may be done competing, but he's not done with gymnastics.

Career highlights

  • 2004 Olympic Games gold medallist.
  • 2004 Lionel Conacher Canadian Male Athlete of the Year.
  • 3-time World Championships bronze medallist (2003, 2006). 
  • 4-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
  • 3-time World Cup Finals silver medalist.

He'll be joining CBC Sports as a guest analyst for the floor and vault coverage at the Canadian National Gymnastics Championships in June, and he also announced in his blog that he's taking on an ambassador role with Gymnastics Canada to promote the sport.

"When I look towards my future, I want to leave a legacy that runs rich. I want to make a difference," his blog says. "I want to contribute to sport and the community in a positive way."

Shewfelt put gymnastics on the map in Canada with that historic gold medal win in Athens.

On Aug. 22, 2004, Shewfelt became Canada's story of the Olympic Games — and it wouldn't be the last time.

'I heard a cracking sound'

Three years later, while training for the 2007 World Championships in Germany, Shewfelt, who was routinely producing podium finishes on the international stage, misjudged a landing and broke both of his legs.

"I heard a cracking sound," he told nine months after the accident.

"I lay there for a moment then tried to straighten my legs. It took me 10 minutes to do that. I finally made it out of the gym, but I was moving like Bambi. I didn't realize how badly I was injured until a few days later, after the MRI. They came in with a wheelchair and I thought, 'That's a bad sign.' "

A surgeon in Alberta inserted a plate and screws and reattached ligaments in his left knee. Then they repositioned the bone and inserted a screw in his right knee.

For a month after the surgery, Shewfelt would roll to the side of his bed and edge his body onto a walker. He couldn't make a meal or take a bath without help.

Canada's comeback story in Beijing

Fast forward nine months, and Shewfelt was training — still in pain — six days a week. He not only got back into competition shape, he made Canada's Olympic team.

The country's comeback story of the Beijing Olympics, Shewfelt  finished 12th in the vault and 11th in the floor routine.

"It's been the biggest challenge of my life," he told CBC Sports in Beijing. "I've had to search for small victories every single day. I feel my experiences over the last 11 months have been so rich and taught me so much about myself, about the strength that I have."

Now that he's putting an end to his career, Shewfelt said one of his biggest worries is the unknown.

"In all honesty, this is a very hard time for me," his blog says. "The unknown is very scary. But I am looking forward to this next phase of my life … I have no regrets. Not a single one. I am so proud of my career and can't help but to shed a tear (or twenty thousand! — I've been a bit of a bawling mess while writing this) when I realize that I literally got to live my dream."

With files from The Canadian Press