RIO DE JANEIRO - Japan's Rie Kaneto almost quit swimming on several occasions. Her decision to persevere paid off on Thursday, when she won the 200m breaststroke Olympic gold in 2min and 20.30sec.
Russian Yulia Efimova took silver in 2:21.97. Bronze went to China's Shi Jinglin (2:22.28).
"This feels like the heaviest medal I've got," said Kaneteo. "This was a lifetime ambition."
She arrived in Rio as one of the favourites in this event after setting the Asian record in April. Her effort of 2:19.65 at the Japan Open was the only sub-2:20 time this year and the sixth fastest time in this event.
She was quickest when it mattered most at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium. And her victory would go some way in easing the pain of past disappointments, including missing the 2012 London Games.
"At the end of every year from 2012 I thought 'I want to quit'," the 27-year-old told the Japan Times in April. "I wanted to quit but I couldn't. The feeling that I could break the national record only started to take hold about half a year ago.
"I couldn't achieve what I wanted to last year and I wanted to quit (after finishing sixth in the 200m breast at the world championships). But after thinking about it, I realised that I didn't want all the people who had supported me to remember my last race as being a pathetic one."