Birchfield Harriers' women's team manager, Lyn Orbell, last night paid tribute to Denise Lewis after the former Olympic champion announced her retirement from the sport.
Orbell, who had Lewis in her team for nine years, hailed the West Bromwichborn heptathlete 's contribution to British athletics and identified her as 'one of the top three female athletes this country has ever produced' in one of many glowing eulogies received by the 32-year-old.
Lewis last competed for the Perry Barr-based club in a national league meeting in Manchester in July 2004 before the Olympic Games in Athens where she intended to defend the gold medal she had won in Sydney.
She withdrew after five events in Greece and has spent most of this year struggling to regain fitness for the world championships in August. After being hospitalised by tonsillitis in recent weeks she realised that she was not going to be fit for Helsinki and decided to end a career blighted by injury.
Orbell said: "Denise has done so much to bring women's athletics to the fore with what she has achieved. She is a legend of the sport and, along with Ann Packer and Kelly Holmes, has got to be one of the top three female athletes this country has ever produced.
"She has got the full set of medals, Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth and not many athletes can say that, particularly multi-event athletes who have to work so hard and be so committed. She has been an inspiration to the kids at Birchfield."
Lewis said she agonised over the decision but felt that the injuries she had suffered had taken their toll. She said: "There comes a point when you have to take stock and I just did not want to be in pain any more.
"It was a very emotional decision and not one I came to lightly. I've had months of deliberation and a lot of setbacks already this year. It's just something that happens to you when you know it's enough.
"It was a combination of injuries and a constant battle to try to reproduce the good form which I know is still in me. But someone has sent me a sign and and I am listening to my inner voice."
Lewis, who is in Singapore to support London's bid for the 2012 Olympics, is set to cover the world championships for BBC Radio.
Her first major title was the Commonwealth gold medal in Canada in 1994. She was seventh at the world championships before claiming Olympic bronze in Atlanta in 1996.
Before the Sydney Olympics in 2000, she retained her Commonwealth title and was crowned European champion, and twice finished runner-up in the world championships.
In Sydney she had her finest hour, taking the gold, but injuries meant she never scaled such heights again.