WINDSOR, England (AP) -- After eight Olympics and five medals, Josefa Idem is finally hanging up the paddle.
The 47-year-old Italian kayaker competed in her last race Thursday, finishing fifth in the final of the K-1 500-meters at the London Olympics, competing against opponents nearly half her age.
After the race, she confirmed that she's finally ready to retire.
"For me it is always unbelievable. This was my seventh final in K-1 at the Olympics and I was very full of energy in these Olympic Games," she said. "I've raced, I've competed and I am very happy about that because there were moments that I was really tired mentally. I was close so it was a big, big challenge and a big achievement."
Idem began competing as a 13-year-old at the 1977 European Championships, and has compiled 20 world championship medals along with her Olympic gold from the 2000 Sydney Games. She has another two silvers and bronze medals as well - the first of which came in Los Angeles in 1984.
She was born in West Germany and competed for that country in her first two Olympics. She switched nationality after marrying an Italian in 1990.
Even in her late 40s, she showed she's still a contender for medals.
"I'm sure I've inspired my generation," Idem said. "Those people who start to sit down in the armchair and watch races and watch life going on. I never think of my age because it's the stopwatch that says who is stronger and who lost. You can be a part of it at my age"
The mother of two said it might be difficult to get used to a life without competing, but that she is relishing the opportunity to try new challenges.
"Sure (it will be strange) but this is life, you know," she said. "I like writing and I said I want to be a journalist at the next Olympic games. I want to tell stories from sports. We are always talking about the absolute winners and it's also necessary to talk about the nice stories of losers. ... It's one of my dreams. But now I am at the point where if things come or don't come, I don't need reason for being happy."
Hartley, who raced next to Idem in lane five, paid tribute to the Italian's tenacity and spirit.
"I am definitely inspired by her because I don't think I could ever do what she's done," she said. "I think it's absolutely brilliant that she's competed in so many Olympics and got so many medals. And she's a mother. I think she is definitely going to be a legend of the sport for what she's done. I don't think I could carry on to the age of 47 like her. It's very difficult."