Emma Raducanu's Rise Shows That Prioritising Health (Including Mental Health) Pays Off
When teenage tennis sensation Emma Raducanu withdrew from her last 16 match at Wimbledon, some were quick to call her 'a quitter' and 'mentally weak'.
Two months later, the 18-year-old talent made history by winning the US Open as a qualifier without dropping a set, catapulting her to global superstar and role model status.
But it is the way that she protected, preserved and prioritised her health, including her mental health, during that difficult moment at Wimbledon that sport and wider society can learn important lessons from.
The exact details of why Raducanu experienced what she did are still unclear. She spoke of being hampered by breathing difficulties, becoming overwhelmed and exhaustion; all symptoms that can be closely linked to both physical and mental health.
What we do know is that an 18-year-old woman, in the biggest moment of her career at that point and faced with symptoms infrequently displayed, discussed or understood in professional sport, chose to prioritise her health and withdraw from Wimbledon mid-match rather than attempt to battle on at the risk of the problem developing into something worse.
Her decision was met with mixed reactions but the fact that she felt unable to continue should be respected and accepted without question in the same way that that a muscle injury, for example, would be.
At Sporting Chance, we strive for parity between mental health and physical health and the ideal that nobody should ever be discriminated against because of their mental health.
Raducanu showed why. It was courageous of her to acknowledge what was going on for her, to accept vulnerability (not weakness) and to act in the best interests of her health despite the pressure of media attention, an expectant crowd and the stigma of 'quitting'.
The very nature of competitive sport makes it a tricky environment for dealing with health concerns. There is pressure to show unrealistic levels of resilience, infallibility and to be almost super-human.
In reality, treating mental health with the same care as physical health is more likely to help a sportsperson to progress than simply trying to 'play through it'.
Emma Raducanu stopped, listened, acted, survived, learned, recovered and gave herself the best possible chance of thriving in the future.
We hope the enormous scale on which she did thrive just a few weeks later will help others better understand the importance and potential benefits of treating mental and physical health as one.