Gymnast Vanessa bows out at the top

THE FIREWORKS sparked into the Athens sky, the carnival of colour littered the floor and the patchwork of music flowed around the stadium – it was the moment that Vanessa Hobbs knew her days in gymnastics were over.

Hobbs was sure the Olympic experience could never be matched again – how could it get better than this?

The month of magic conjured up in Athens was the result of four years of intense, dedicated slog that asked the teenager to put every ounce of effort on the line to make the British squad.

But even with the 2008 Games in Beijing on the horizon, Hobbs is not prepared to put herself through the gruelling regime of six hours training a day, six days a week any longer.

And that is why she has decided to call time on her career as a national sports star – aged just 17 years old.

'To be an international gymnast I had to live at the National Centre of Excellence at Lilleshall and that meant being away from my family and friends in Fareham,' said Hobbs.

'Everything I have done has all been worth it because I went to the Olympics and it was everything I had hoped for.

'But the simple thing for me now is that I want to go out at the top – I want that to be my last memory in gymnastics.