2012 summer’s Olympics in London will be shaped by social media like no sporting event in history. But 20 years ago, when figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi took home the gold medal at the 1992 games in France, social media was an unheard of concept.
Yamaguchi became a household name and global celebrity. But without Twitter, Facebook and other platforms, that experience was much different for her than it will be for this summer’s Olympic stars.
“Social media has changed [culture] so much,” Yamaguchi gushes in an interview. “It’s incredible that you can actually send an athlete a message now […] In the past, you couldn’t really reach out to celebrities at all.”
She says she’ll be using Twitter to track the 2012 Olympics, and that gymnast Nastia Liukin and swimmer Ryan Lochte are two of her favorite follows. As a former Olympian, though, Yamaguchi is aware of the challenges that life in the always-on era of social media brings.
“Now you have to be smart about what you’re putting out there, because once you do it’s there forever,” she says. “It’s harder for young athletes to think about how it might affect them down the line or cause controversy, because people are very opinionated online and also braver to speak out online. You can’t read everything that’s there, because otherwise you’ll just go crazy with the things people say about you.”