Egyptian swimmer Farida Osman has taken to social media with a statement after the criticism she received post-elimination from the Tokyo Olympics. The fastest female swimmer in Egypt did not qualify for the semi-finals in the women’s 50m freestyle because she came second in heat eight with 25.13 seconds to place 24th overall, or for the 100m butterfly event after ranking 20th. This subjected her to scrutiny after many described her performance at the Olympics as “below average” for her skill level.
The 26-year-old champion said on her Instagram account that she was proud to represent Egypt at the Olympics and that it is an athlete’s dream to qualify to the 2020 Olympics and “stand next to the world’s greatest.” Admitting her disappointment, she added, “For me, it is heartbreaking that I wasn’t able to perform at my best and usual during this year’s races. But as an athlete, I know to make this obstacle an opportunity for growth, learning, and progress.” Osman then made an empowering statement defending herself, saying, “An athlete is not defined by a single performance. It’s the discipline, mindset, sacrifices, and hard work they put in that define both their character and career. I’m still keeping my head high and believing in myself.” Thanking all those who supported her in her journey, she paid respects to every athlete competing at the Olympics – “it’s the hardest thing anyone can do in sport” – before wishing them luck.
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Osman’s treatment also garnered support from fellow Egyptian athletes. One of them is swimmer Abdelrahman Sameh, who wrote: “It saddens me as an athlete representing my country to see how people view us from around the world as entertainment tools just like movies and series, they think it is all scripted and if it doesn’t go as ‘they’ planned they start hating on us like we went out there to perform at our worst on purpose. We athletes hate performing bad as much as you, the spectators, hate it if not 10 times more.”
Athletes from 205 countries and territories are competing in the Tokyo Olympics, carrying the weight of their compatriots’ expectations and being exposed to widespread cyberbullying when they don’t meet them. Japanese gymnast Mai Murakami, who won a bronze medal in the women’s floor exercise, was in tears when she told reporters that she had received negative comments on social media. “I know there are people who support me,” she said. “But I can’t help seeing those negative comments.” Additionally, according to BBC, the pressure on Chinese athletes to perform has never been higher, with “anything less than a gold is being seen as athletes being unpatriotic by furious nationalists online.” China’s mixed doubles table tennis team apologized with tears in their eyes at the Olympics last week for winning a silver medal.
Lastly, when American gymnast Simone Biles announced that she will be scratching her team final to taking a break for her mental health last week, she received tremendous backlash online, including from Texas Deputy Attorney General Aaron Reitz, who recently apologized for calling her “a national embarrassment” on Twitter.