An Olympic medallist and jersey former world champion

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An Olympic medallist and former world champion
“I’ve written a comedy about this actually,” Gail Emms says with a wry smile as she explains how a former professional feels when she is spat out by the sports industry and a proud career fades away into oblivion. “It’s very British because they’ll say: ‘Well done, here’s a pat on the back. Now fuck off and get a proper job.’ They need to concentrate on the next one. You’ve done your job, so off you go.”
Emms is chatty and cheerful in a sports club in Milton Keynes; but the themes of this interview often seem as bleak as they are salutary. The brutal way in which UK Sport cuts funding is matched by the problems Emms has faced as a retired Olympic medal‑winner. She won her silver medal in badminton at the 2004 Olympic Games Lavonte David Jersey in Athens, playing in the mixed doubles with Nathan Robertson, at a time when British sporting success was a rarity. Emms and Robertson were also world champions in 2006 and she won two Commonwealth Games gold medals and a matching pair of European titles. Eleven years later she pauses when asked if she now wishes she had never been a professional sportswoman. “Yeah, I questioned that a lot,” Emms says. “This year especially.’”
She played badminton professionally for a decade and, as she says, “I then had a family. So I’m 40 now and feel like I’ve had the career of a 23-year-old. My CV literally reads: ‘Can hit a shuttle really hard.’ But who am I? I’ve got medals to show and I’m really ambitious and determined. But that doesn’t get me through the HR system when they ask: ‘Has she got three years’ experience? Has she got a Authentic Quinten Rollins Jersey marketing degree?’ No, I haven’t.”
Emms obtained a sports science degree in 1998 and, rather than expecting free handouts as a former Olympian, she would just like a chance to Sergei Fedorov Adidas Jersey prove her intelligence and vitality could be useful in the job market. In a blog entitled ‘I’m ashamed to admit I’m struggling,’ Emms wrote of how the constant rejections and piles of unpaid bills made her feel like “I am a failure … I am feeling lost and with no direction, no purpose, no career, no identity and who the hell do I go to? I am not sure I can cope with more rejections.”
Emms sips her green tea and describes her contradictory emotions. “In my head I’m great, I’m awesome,” she says wistfully. “It’s that ego we have in sport. But, in real life, you keep getting rejected and you think: ‘I knew where I stood in the badminton world rankings but I don’t know where I rate in real life. Am I average? Am I better than that? Where am I?’”
Her vulnerability is a reminder of the battle many sportsmen and women face on retirement. She also makes an acute observation about elite sport undermining personal growth. “Sport suppresses you and keeps you like a kid. It’s easier to control kids because if they misbehave you can put them on the naughty step. So coaches turn into parents. And sport makes athletes behave like kids. I’m still a big kid.”
Emms rolls her eyes in self‑deprecation. But her hurt is obvious. “I spent seven months trying to present myself to companies saying, ‘Look, I can really Anthony Hitchens Jersey help even if I haven’t got experience in an office. I’d love to be part of your company.’ All I got was: ‘No, sorry. No, sorry.’ I nearly cried on someone when trying my interview‑selling technique. I was thinking, ‘Don’t cry, but I’m really desperate and I really need a job.’ I got home and thought: ‘No one has a sodding clue.’ So I wrote this blog so quick [Emms makes rapid typing sounds] and hit ‘Send’.
“I had over 1,000 messages – 200 from athletes. So many people were telling me: ‘I was also in a really bad place but I got through it.’ But the fact that 200 athletes from all sports got in touch was scary because they all felt the same as I did. I’ve opened this box so I can’t just say: ‘Yeah, see you everyone.’ I feel a responsibility to do something about it.”


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