Ex-GB diver Victoria Vincent opens up about the mental health affects of career-ending eye injury

Victoria Vincent injured her eye which meant she could no longer compete (Twitter: my amigo)
Victoria Vincent injured her eye which meant she could no longer compete (Twitter: my amigo)
16:30pm, Fri 13 Dec 2019
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Former Team GB diver Victoria Vincent has spoken about the mental health affects she suffered after sustaining a career-ending eye injury.

At just age 13 she was told she couldn't represent England at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow despite winning the trials. 

Her coach, Andy Banks, successfully appealed the decision which meant she would become the youngest ever person to represent England.

However, earlier that year she detached a retina in her eye after performing a dive.

The now 18-year-old said: "I missed my hands as I entered the water and I left my eye open and it just went black.

"When you're diving off 10 metres you think you're pretty much invincible. I went to the Commonwealth Games with a dodgy eye. I lost my peripheral vision and started to see flashing lights and black dots floating around.

"It was only after the Games that I thought maybe I should get it checked out," she told BBC Sport.

In December of the same year Vincent went to the doctor's where they told her if she didn't receive treatment she could lose her sight.

Despite missing all of 2015 to protect her eye, she got back on the board and became junior champion. 

Missing an entire year of competition meant that she could not reach the 2016 Olympics and so aimed for Tokyo 2020, but then her eye problems returned.

Vincent added: "I got told I had a cataract, which meant another operation to replace the lens, and that weakened my eye.

"They said: 'If you were to dive off 10 metres, we're not sure whether your eye can withstand that pressure difference between 10 metres and the bottom of the pool.'"

The diver tried to compete on the three and one metre boards but was not as successful and it was in this time that she started to feel 'very down.'

The youngster said: "I hated it so much. I used to go into training and I'd look at the platform and I'd just think, 'if I'd have sorted it out as soon as it happened I may still be able to go off 10 metres'.

"I had quite a lot going on in my life. I hadn't quite sorted some stuff out from my childhood, quite a lot of stuff happened when I was moving to Plymouth which I found quite difficult, but I just sort of buried that

"But as soon as I had this retinal detachment and cataract problem, and got told I couldn't do 10 metres any more and the dream of going to the 2016 or any Olympics was taken away from me, that was when it all went downhill.

"I just felt really down, it was just really dark. I don't even know how to describe it, it just did not feel good. Everything was so overwhelming, the amount of stuff that had gone wrong was just too much."

Vincent continues to compete on the one and three metre boards (Instagram: Victoria Vincent)

After her former coach left Plymouth, where she lived, to take a job in Australia the athlete's depression got worse.

"I had to write down what was wrong because I couldn't even bring myself to say what was wrong - I felt so overwhelmed," she said.

"At points I thought that how I felt wasn't justified. I felt like other people deserved support more than I did, and so that was quite difficult for me to be a bit selfish and say, 'it's my turn, I need some help now'.

"But the more you talk about it, the better it gets. It's just getting to the point where you have the confidence to come out and talk about it, and that's something that I think a lot of people need to understand."

The 18-year-old is now training to be a doctor and says her experience has made her more 'resilient'.

Vincent added: "I think it's made me a stronger, more resilient person. I think because of the experiences I've had I'd like to think I'm more empathetic, I understand other people's situations a lot better than I would have done had I not been through this.

"If I hadn't detached my retina, I wouldn't have been able to work as hard as I did at school and get the grades that I did and I wouldn't have been able to become a doctor."

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