Alexandre Despatie, Canada's most decorated male diver, barely kept his composure Tuesday as he announced his retirement from the sport at the age of 27.
The three-time world champion and two-time Olympic silver medallist said injuries pushed him to cut his career short.
"I never thought this day would come, but after 22 years in diving, it's time to move on," he told a news conference as his parents, Pierre and Christiane, sat in the front row.
His eyes glistened as he thanked his parents and teammates, and he broke down in tears afterwards, as he hugged his mother.
The announcement came 14 years after Despatie captivated Canadians by winning a surprise gold medal at the 1998 Commonwealth Games. Images of the tiny 13-year-old beating much older competitors in Malaysia vaulted him to stardom.
He later became the first diver ever to win world championship in the three-, five- and 10-metre events. Two of his 11 world championship medals came on home soil at the 2005 FINA World Championship in Montreal.
"It was one of the best, if not the best week of my life," said the native of suburban Laval, Que. "To experience these two gold medals in the company of my family and friends, but also in the company of all Montrealers, I don't think such a perfect scenario could happen (again)."
Despatie's Montreal performance was book-ended by two Olympic silver medals, one at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens and another in 2008, in Beijing.
But his career ended on a sour note last year when he hit his head against the springboard during training just weeks before the London Olympics.
Despatie also underwent knee surgery in October and it soon became clear that he wouldn't be able to return to the heights he had enjoyed for more than a decade.
"I had the chance to know the beautiful moments "¦ but I also had the chance to experience difficult times," he said. "I think it's in these dark times you learn the most about yourself and about life."
He finished his career with six world championship medals and a Canadian-record 11 medals at the Commonwealth Games.
The retirement announcement, and a 28th birthday celebration Saturday, will usher in a new chapter in Despatie's life.
A wide-open schedule will allow him to take in Grand Prix festivities for the first time this weekend before he pursues a career in television.
"My second dream is to have a career in the world of communications, to become an actor," he said.
His voice cracking, he reminisced about the opportunities his excellence on the board has provided.
"Sports has given me everything," he said. "My experiences will mark the rest of my life."