Rio 2016 finalist Anna Boada quits at 26 due to depression
Anna Boada has stunned the world of rowing by quitting the sport with immediate effect.
Boada, who took bronze in the pair at the 2018 World Championships with Aina Cid, announced her retirement at this weekend's annual Rowing Gala held at the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) headquarters in Madrid.
After the duo received the Rower of the Year award, the 26-year-old from Barcelona made her shock revelation.
Reading from a letter on stage she said, "Unfortunately I find it hard to accept that, this time, I have been unable to find the strength to continue fighting.
"We do not choose diseases, and sometimes we do not accept them especially when we talk about mental health issues.
"Today, a broken arm is much more recognised than depression or anxiety."
An ongoing battle
Medicine graduate Boada has struggled with her mental health for years, previously saying training and competing helped keep her demons at bay.
She and Cid broke through in 2016, taking third in World Cup I in Varese, Italy before qualifying for Rio 2016.
After a fifth place at the 2017 World Championships in Sarasota, USA, the pair claimed second in the following year's World Rowing Cup I in Belgrade.
Then they took third place at last September's World Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to become Spain's first ever female global medallists in an Olympic rowing class.
But soon after their greatest achievement to date, Boada told the Spanish Rowing Federation (FER) that she had suffered a serious relapse.
As she took time out, Cid partnered Virginia Diaz to victory in last month's Spring Open which doubles up as the main trial regatta for international competition including the World Cup.
And now Boada has had to admit defeat as far as her sporting aspirations are concerned.
Addressing the stunned audience she said, "Loneliness overcomes you because of the shame of being judged, of people knowing the truth and being afraid to approach you for fear of being infected themselves.
"The cycle starts to feed itself and you are really lost."
"I realised too late - I did not know how to find the right help at the right time. Perhaps I was not even aware of how far I could fall.
"I have stopped searching for the cause, stopped asking myself what would have happened had I made different decisions.
"In the end, I was the one harmed and the world has kept turning while I was paralysed not knowing how to continue."
The next step
Now Boada hopes to raise awareness of depression, particularly in high-level sportspeople, and support rowers who may experience similar issues.
She continued, "I've only wanted to tell my story to make people here aware that only athletes know the extent of the pressure to which we are subjected year after year.
"I sincerely believe that I am not, and will not be, the only elite athlete who needs help managing their emotions."
"I would like there to be some way to support us during these crises, but also something preventative before it is too late.
"I am here for any rower who needs me now or in the future. I am hoping that for them it is not too late, and that they can enjoy this great sport in the way that I would have liked to."
COE President Alejandro Bianco said, "Anna Boada gave many years of her life to sport and this will be with her after her retirement.
"She has all my support and that of the COE for what she needs in her recovery and in this new phase where she will also leave her mark."