Federica Pellegrini looked forward to a long Christmas vacation, weekends skiing in the mountains and taking the time to learn English after surrendering her Olympic 200 metres freestyle title on Tuesday.
The Italian plans to take a year out to recharge her batteries after failing to bring to the London Olympic pool the sort of form that made her world champion and record holder in the distance.
She finished fifth in Tuesday's final, her time of one minute 56.73 seconds well beaten by American gold medallist Allison Schmitt in 1:53.61, after also taking fifth place in Sunday's 400 freestyle final.
"After the 400 I tried to turn a page by going straight out with an extra push for the 200 but today I couldn't shave anything off yesterday's (semi-final) time," Pellegrini told reporters.
"I couldn't do more than that, honestly. I had a lot of self belief but in the water I didn't get the feelings that might have given me something extra in my head. It's okay, these things happen in sport."
The 23-year-old was one of her country's big medal hopes, despite failing to qualify for the 400 final at the European championships in May, after winning both the 200 and 400 at last year's world championships in Shanghai.
But the tank has been running on empty in London for a swimmer whose life in the last few years has been lived increasingly in the pages of celebrity gossip magazines chronicling her love life.
"It's a sign that now I need a break," declared the Venetian, known for occasional panic attacks in the water.
"My physical state makes me realise that I really need this year out. It hurts to have closed a cycle in my life like this but I am still happy that I tried to the end."
Pellegrini said she would do short-distance races only next year, and 50 or 100 metres backstroke rather than freestyle to escape from the old routines.
Asked what she would do in the months ahead, she painted a picture of freedom, a world in which she could escape the hard yards of the training pool and live life in a less stressful manner.
It would be "spending 10 days at home at Christmas if I want, a ski weekend in the mountains if I want, maybe starting to study at university and learning English. Things without having to think about times, swimming, winning.
"The less I think about swimming over the next year, the better.
Pellegrini, who also won 200 silver at the 2004 Athens Games as a 16-year-old, was clear that she would be back.
"There has to be the motivation because without it you never go anywhere. I hope to return. I think I will," she said.
"Swimming is the great love of my life...I am still young."