Chris Froome has used his latest video catch up to ask that people stop being so quick to criticise, with more and more athletes struggling to find the strength to deal with the added pressure of comments directed at them through social media.
The Israel Start-Up Nation rider is no stranger to those comments talking in one of his earlier videos posted on YouTube about how many people had said things like ‘hang up your bike’ or told him he was finished after he struggled for results after working his way back from the 2019 Critérium du Dauphinè crash that almost ended his career.
“As a community there are expectations on athletes now that they are almost superhuman,” Froome said in his latest post. “I don’t think all athletes are necessarily superhuman in terms of how they deal with emotions and all the criticisms that are thrown their way.
“We see more and more athletes who are really struggling because of the direct access through social media and other media outlets. People can sit behind a screen and throw insults at an athlete in a way that you wouldn’t do if you saw them in person, or you were passing in the street or in the supermarket.”
A considerable amount of attention has been focussed on the issue around the Tokyo Olympic Games, but there were also previously no shortage of examples in cycling of harsh social media criticism and beyond, with Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) earlier this year highlighting the racist abuse that he endured on social media in the aftermath of his clash with Jake Stewart at Cholet-Pays de la Loire.
“People wouldn’t say the things that they say on social media directly to the athlete but I think, especially with the Olympics this year, it has been highlighted that there are so many athletes who really struggle with that pressure,” Froome said. “In a way I think being an athlete should be about what they actually do in terms of their athletic or sporting capability, not necessarily this other side of things and having to be so strong to deal with all the extra criticism.
“If I can put any message out there I’d just say just think twice before you hurl an insult at an athlete. We are all out there obviously giving our best every time we represent our country or our team. We want to give our best performance so it's not as if athletes are out there trying not to do their best and a lot of athletes are criticised pretty heavily. We shouldn't be so quick to criticise them when maybe they don’t meet expectations.”
Froome also discussed his 2021 Tour de France in the video, where he crashed heavily on the very first stage yet, feeling the impact of the injuries he sustained right through to the very last stage, battled onto the end.
“It was really important to carry on the race even though I was black and blue for the best part of two weeks and I felt my ribs right through to Paris actually – even on the cobblestones of the Champs Elysees I could feel my ribs,” said Froome.
“It was such a brutal edition this year and I think, especially where I’m coming from, getting a Tour de France in the legs was really important and I’m glad I did.”
Froome, who hasn’t raced since the Tour de France, is due to make his return at the Deutschland Tour next week, opting to skip the Vuelta a España and focus on shorter stage-races and one-day events instead.
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