Olympic star Emms: I feel like a fail­ure

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Ben Rumsby

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

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