Japan's long-time backstroke king Ryosuke Irie, who won three Olympic medals in 2012, announced his retirement Wednesday at the age of 34.

At last month's selection trials, the swimmer from Osaka Prefecture fell short in his bid to qualify for his fifth consecutive Olympics, where he'd hoped to wrap up his career.

"I'm truly happy to have had a long competitive career," Irie told a press conference in Tokyo, his voice breaking with emotion. "I wanted to retire in Paris."

Japanese backstroke swimmer Ryosuke Irie announces his retirement at a press conference in Tokyo on April 3, 2024. (Kyodo)

Two-time double Olympic breaststroke champion Kosuke Kitajima made a surprise appearance at the press conference to congratulate Irie on his career.

Kitajima and Irie were part of Japan's silver medal quartet in the men's 4x100-meter medley relay at the 2012 London Olympics.

Kitajima called Irie "a central figure of Japan's national swimming team and a great teammate."

As for his future, Irie said he is considering going to graduate school.

At the Olympics in London, Irie also won silver in the men's 200-meter backstroke while claiming bronze in the 100 backstroke.

Irie also collected two silver and two bronze medals in eight world championships, with his final appearance coming at last summer's meet in Fukuoka.

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