Paralympic swimming champion Ellie Robinson has urged fellow Perthes disease sufferer Alfie Hewett to focus on his achievements rather than be “fearful” about the probable end of his wheelchair tennis career.
Hewett and partner Gordon Reid – silver medallists at Tokyo 2020 – completed a clean sweep of the 2021 Grand Slam doubles titles by winning the US Open on Saturday evening.
But the 23-year-old has been competing under a cloud of uncertainty for almost two years as under new classification rules, which are set to come into effect at the end of the year, his disability is not deemed severe enough.
Robinson announced her retirement from the pool in Japan due to a deterioration in her Perthes, a rare childhood hip condition which develops when the blood supply to the head of the femur is temporarily disrupted.
Having received words of comfort from Hewett in the athletes’ village, she reciprocated that support at Sunday’s National Lottery ParalympicsGB Homecoming event.
“The advice I would offer to Alfie would be not to forget what he has achieved,” she told the PA news agency.
“I can’t help him fight the system but I want him in this difficult period to recognise what he has achieved already and I don’t just mean the titles but his entire career, all that he’s worked towards.
“I want him to really give himself the credit that he deserves. I don’t want him to be fearful of what he could potentially lose with his classification.
“I want him to remember what he has gained and everything that he is in possession of currently and what they can’t take away from him.
“Yes, they could potentially take away his classification, but they cannot take his awards, his achievements and his medals.”
Norfolk-born Hewett – who was beaten in Sunday’s US Open singles final by world number one Shingo Kunieda – and Scotsman Reid were visibly devastated nine days ago having suffered a second successive Paralympic doubles final defeat to French pair Stephane Houdet and Nicolas Peifer.
But they swiftly recovered to claim glory in New York, adding to this year’s triumphs at the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, and securing a 13th Slam title together overall.
Meanwhile, Robinson – who won S6 50-metre butterfly gold at Rio 2016 – is now focusing on completing a history and politics degree through The Open University.
Her decision to call time on her fledgling career coincided with her 20th birthday and prompted an outpouring of support from a host of famous names, including former sports stars Gary Lineker and Boris Becker, plus the British public.
Robinson says the decision has alleviated anxiety and left her with a new-found level of contentment, while the heart-warming responses made her realise she is not defined by sporting honours.
“I feel relaxed, relieved – I feel an immense amount of relief, I don’t feel the anxiety that I used to and it’s such a nice position to be in,” she said.
“The barrier that the British public broke down – thoughts that if I don’t win a medal I’m nothing, and me pinning my identity on my success and my achievements – now that’s been broken down I feel so content.
“I’ve hung up my hat and goggles and I’m moving on to the next chapter of my life.”