Matthew Hudson-Smith’s brilliant summer of success just a year after trying to take his own life could serve as a beacon of hope and draw more people into athletics, says Michael Johnson.
British 400m star Hudson-Smith, 27, won bronze at the Oregon World Championships in July, before revealing he had endured “three years of absolute hell” after a torrid period with injuries and the Covid lockdown that culminated in a suicide attempt in 2021.
Hudson-Smith made history as the first British athlete to win medals at three different majors in the same summer, after taking home silver at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham before defending his European title in Munich.
“It’s great to see athletes who have had these fights succeeding at the highest level, which gives hope to other people,” said former 400m world record holder Johnson, speaking as an ambassador for the Organization of Professional Triathletes. US Open in his hometown of Dallas.
“But it also makes these great athletes human, which I think is great for bringing more fans to the sport.”
American icon Johnson, 55, loved watching Hudson-Smith’s medals in his role as a BBC commentator and praised his decision to speak openly about his mental health struggles, while admitting it’s always a personal choice to share such intimate information.
The four-time Olympic champion added: “I was delighted to see Matt have a very successful summer with a medal at the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games.
“It was a good championship and a good year for him. This is a very personal story, it’s his choice whether he chooses to share it or not, but he did it.
“Those athletes who decide to share their stories like Matt are important to the sport because people sitting at home can relate to that and have been through the same situation.
“It was nice to see Matt share his story, but even better to see him be so successful after what he’s been through in person and what he’s revealed about his mental struggle, but also on the track he’s struggled with injuries as well.
“So in two different ways, he kind of got over those two things.”
Hudson-Smith, who is from Wolverhampton but now lives in Florida, battled Achilles, hamstring and hip injuries since 2019, before being separated from his family and being stranded in the US during the coronavirus pandemic.
Those fitness issues dashed Hudson-Smith’s hopes of appearing at a second Olympics in Tokyo last year, having finished eighth at Rio 2016, but he was a resurgent force in 2022.
After Hudson-Smith topped the podium at the European Championships in August, he reflected on a seismic summer that came to life when he broke 25-year-old Iwan Thomas’ British single-lap record at the Diamond League in Oregon in May before to win a hat-trick of big medals.
He said: “It was a good victory and I did exactly what I wanted to do, I am very happy to be European champion again.
“It’s been a busy summer but I’m so happy to be able to compete against the best in the world, there’s not much more you could ask for.
“This victory is a testament to my coach and the team around me that we are on the right track and we delivered this year.”
Hudson-Smith then gave an inspiring message to those watching after a roller coaster ride of a few years. He said: “Last year was a big downturn. You fight a lot of fights and I’m sure everyone in the world is fighting their own demons.
“But I am a witness that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone who is going through struggles, just fight and you will win.”
:: Michael Johnson was a special guest of the Professional Triathletes Organization at the PTO US Open in Dallas. The PTO is a new athlete-owned sporting body that seeks to take the sport of triathlon to the next level. For more information visit www.protriathletes.org