Olympic star Emms: I feel like a failure
AS A decorated Olympian who spent a decade at the top of her game, Gail Emms would be seen by many as a symbol of success.
However, the former badminton star has revealed that, at the end of her sporting career, her own view of herself is very different: “That I, Gail Emms, Olympic silver medallist, am a failure.”
The mother-of-two has written a candid blog in which she admits she is unable to find a job and, facing mounting bills, has been forced to sell possessions on ebay to make ends meet.
She said employment rejections had left her close to breaking point and she had been told she would need another degree to join a sports marketing team despite her Olympic background.
“There has been a lot of talk about supporting athletes post-retirement for mental health and, right now, I need that support,” Emms wrote on women’s sport website themixedzone. co.uk. “I am feeling lost and with no direction, no purpose, no career, no identity and who the hell do I go to?” The 40-year-old, who won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens games, as well as world, European and Commonwealth gold, is the latest in a long line of sport stars to discuss the mental health problems they have faced after their competitive careers ended. She has urged UK Sport to do more to help those who have made the country feel good through their success. Emms said that as a sportswoman, she “relies on ego and feeling great”, and so struggled to come to terms with people not inviting her for interviews or replying to emails.
While some months she delivered talks to schools and businesses, in the time since her 2008 retirement she has found it increasingly difficult to maintain her profile and deal with rejection.
With “a CV that reads ‘played professional badminton for 10 years’” and a sports science degree almost two decades old, Emms said she recognised she would be a “gamble” to employ. But as a long-time ambassador for her sport, she expressed surprise that “some hung-over idiot told me to go and get a marketing diploma and couldn’t give a ---- that I was there trying to convince him that I would be a valuable asset to his sports marketing team”.
She admitted that she was struggling with “a massive dent” to her pride, but she decided to speak out as: “I do wonder if the powers-that be at UK Sport realise that the athletes they rely on for the country’s feel-good factor can sink into this situation. I’m 15 years behind a career path. I retired, had a family, and I know I should be grateful for what I have. But my inner drive and ambition can’t turn off. I want more. I need to do more. And I can do more. Given the chance, that is. So if you see me as a barista at Starbucks – and please don’t think I am joking – I apologise now if I get your name wrong.”
It is not the first time that Emms has opened up about her struggles. She suffered depression and panic attacks after retiring and says she was only saved by the birth of her first son.
Gail Emms was a medal winner