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Is it a good idea to insult one of the strongest athletes in the world?

By June 19, 2012 4 Comments

Rebecca Adlington: Considered the best British swimmer in 100 years.

I love the Olympics. I mean, LOVE. Every other year I sit poised eagerly on my couch, ready to watch downhill skiers plunge through the snow, gymnasts vault into the air, and swimmers and skaters speed through the water and across the ice, with such talent and skill that it’s literally an art form. I can hardly think about their physical appearance (besides their obvious strength), but apparently some people are obsessed. In fact, one Olympic swimmer is being so criticized for her appearance that she’s decided to get off Twitter so she’s not distracted by the comments.

I don’t really know why I’m surprised (Our highest-ranking women political leaders get this treatment, so why would our athletes be spared?).

As a former competitive swimmer I tend to follow top swimmers when the Olympics aren’t happening. Rebecca Adlington is a British swimmer who won two gold medals in the 2008 Olympics, one of them breaking a world record, is the first British Olympic swimmer to win two Olympic gold medals, oh, and is seen as the most successful British Olympic swimmer in 100 years. In short – she is AWESOME. Check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VhZm2fj3Ck

And yet, this incredibly accomplished, almost inconceivably strong, crazy-fast woman is on the receiving end of cruel and unnecessary comments about her looks via Twitter. They got so intense, Rebecca said, that she has decided to take a break from tweeting (which she does fairly often, and nicely interacts with her fans) during the Olympics so these comments don’t distract her from, you know, the most important sporting event on the planet.

Oh, these are just my two gold medals.

Let’s think about that for a second and how insane that is – one of the best athletes in the whole world has to deal with people making snarky comments about her appearance, and then actually feels like she has to say “I can’t help the way I look” and note that it actually hurts her feelings. She says “I’m such a girl, I no!” (Twitter shorthand for “I know,” obviously), as though it explains her natural reaction – to this I have to say, “Rebecca, I think you look awesome, and strong, and fast, and confident, and anyone on the planet can have their feelings hurt by those who decide it’s their business to comment on someone’s looks as though it makes any difference!”

She’s obviously also smart, and knows that it’s best to just avoid these trolls and step back from the social media storm while concentrating on some of the most important weeks of her life. But she shouldn’t have to. This is her time to be cheered on, rallied behind, excitedly supported – not being superficially insulted by people who choose to completely ignore her stunning success.

So, to the Twitter trolls: Stop. Just stop. Watch her blow people out of the water this summer in London, and maybe next time around think about how she could take any one of you down in the water.

Larkin