Because Emma Raducanu didn’t just trot out tired old clichés or read from a script. Nor talk of moving on to the next challenge.
Instead, she hugged the trophy like her NBF. Spoke from the heart, talked of having no care in the world, having no plans and loving life. She sang Sweet Caroline with the crowd, then spoke Mandarin, and (hallelujah) misgendered Piers Morgan, saying she’d never heard of her. She’s a complete breath of fresh air.
She’s the latest in a line of sports stars who are breaking with convention in their relations with the public.
From Marcus Rashford to Ellis Genge, Kyle Sinckler (I’m a rugby fan, sorry), Naomi Osaka or Adam Peaty, there’s a growing generation of sports stars willing to speak their mind, take up causes, control their own wellbeing and be their own people.
Not only is this a massive relief to sports fans bored rigid by staid, corporate post-match/event interviews, but its repercussions are being felt way beyond.
First, younger generations are finally getting the representation they need and deserve. Look at the ethnic make-up of 16-24s – 70 per cent are white British vs 88 per cent for 25-65s. That’s a dramatic generational shift.
And while broadcasters are making inroads in representing a broader church of ethnicities, nothing can rival the power of proper sporting heroes in helping young people feel seen.
And it doesn’t stop with ethnicity. Rashford, Genge, Raducanu all demonstrate the values – honesty, civic responsibility, mutual respect – that are all too often missing from public fora.
Second, it’s not just about representation, it’s about leadership.
This group is filling a leadership void for younger generations. A void left by politicians who can’t make up their minds, church leaders stuck in the past and business leaders more obsessed with space than being civic-minded.
They elevate the views of values of a youth generation often ignored and certainly not serviced by existing leaders.
Emma has yet to pin her colours to a social cause mast, but that will happen sooner or later – and when she does, the world will know. And people will take it seriously.
Finally, all of these athletes bring with them a narrative of positivity, possibility and achievement, which can serve as an antidote to the negativity and misery often encountered on social media (the domain of the young).
Powerful, positive, well-followed voices – Marcus is up to five million followers on Twitter, Emma’s up to 1.6 on Instagram – can go a long way to making social media environments a place where young people can feel happy and safe, not sad and threatened.
They say you get the leaders you deserve – it would seem that, finally, young people may finally be getting the ones they have long been lacking.
It is our duty as PRs to ensure that this new generation of stars are embraced by our clients and that their raw and inspirational voices are not over-processed by corporate nay-saying and being risk-averse.
Adam Mack is strategy and insight director at Hope & Glory
Thumbnail credit: Getty Images/Sarah Stier