LONDON – The ecstatic Britons’ jubilation began when Emma Raducanu dropped her racquet after beating Canada’s Leylah Fernandez at the US Open this weekend.
Queen elizabeth ii, other sports stars and politicians joined the chorus of congratulations when 18-year-old Raducanu on Saturday became the first British woman to win the US Open since 1968.
Its fairytale story has already been repeated countless times.
How, in a matter of months, she went from graduating from high school, where she scored the highest marks, to becoming the first qualifier to reach a Grand Slam final in the professional age. And how she was born in Toronto, Canada to a Romanian father and a Chinese mother, moved to the UK at the age of 2 and started playing tennis at the age of 5 .
But it wasn’t total love, and her victory highlighted Britain’s complicated relationship with diversity and immigration. Raducanu herself highlights her upbringing and global background on Twitter and Instagram, where her bio does not mention tennis and instead reads “london | toronto | bucharest | shenyang.
The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, quickly tweeted after his victory that “the story of Raducanu is the story of London”.
“We embrace and celebrate our diversity. And if you work hard and get a helping hand, you can accomplish anything ”, he wrote on the social media platform.
London is the most diverse city in the UK and one of the most diverse in Europe. White Britons made up just 44.9% of the city’s population, according to government figures from the last census in 2011, compared to over 93% of the population in northeast England.
Adulation has come from all corners of the political spectrum.
Nigel Farage, a right-wing anti-immigrant politician, was quickly criticized after he tweeted that she was a “global megastar” and said her victory was “really amazing”. Farage has issued a career warning regarding immigrants, especially those from Romania, coming to the UK
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Before the UK left the European Union and shortly before a rule change allowed Bulgarian and Romanian citizens to live and work in Britain, a YouGov poll showed Britons were more concerned than their French or German counterparts by an influx of immigrants.
It’s a sentiment Jonathan Eyal, international director of Britain’s defense and security think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, mocked in a Twitter post after Raducanu’s victory.
“All these Romanian and Chinese migrants who come here, take our jobs”, he tweeted.
British diversity often comes up against racist discrimination and abuse in real life and on social media.
More recently, after the Euro final in July, three black players who missed their shots on goal were subjected to a torrent of racist abuse on social media. This then led to a surge of support for gamers on social media and in real life.
Raducanu’s track record has had immigrants to Britain like Cambridge City Councilor Alexandra Bulat not only celebrating her success but also warning others that they shouldn’t hang on too much.
“People with an immigrant background don’t need massive achievements to be accepted and have rights in the UK,” said Bulat, who left Romania for the UK nine years ago, in an email to NBC News. “Being British is, for many people, a multicultural and multi-ethnic identity. There is more to Emma and each of us than our ethnic heritage.
For his part, Raducanu embraces both his British nationality and his international career. After her victory, she posted a photo of herself holding both her trophy and a British flag. And in interviews, she often talks about her parents and the countries where they were born.
In the past, she has cited Chinese tennis star Li Na as well as Romanian player Simona Halep as inspirations for her own game, and after the tennis final, she spoke to fans in Mandarin in a short video posted on the official US Open account on Weibo, a popular social media platform in China.
Britain wasn’t the only place people rushed to claim the tennis star as their own. In China, the hashtag “18-year-old Chinese player wins US Open championship” has been viewed 200 million times on the Weibo platform, and social media users have expressed pride in Raducanu for her Chinese heritage.
Jennifer jett and Sophie wang contributed.