Double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington’s memories of landmark moments in her life have been “tainted” by online trolls.
Adlington, 31, shot to prominence at the 2008 Games in Beijing, with wins in the 400m and 800m freestyle.
But she soon became a target for abuse because of her appearance and, when she collected an OBE the following year, she was told “you look like a whale”.
“I don’t have any photos up of that day in my house,” Adlington said.
“I kind of feel bad that I wore that dress. It has changed my perception of memories that should’ve been special. I actually stopped going to events for a long time.”
Adlington has been open about her insecurities and about the social media abuse she has received.
She was “very self-conscious” from a young age as “I’ve never been one of the slim girls” and felt “very insecure” in a swimming costume, even at competitions.
Now she hopes lockdown will help those with body-image issues feel more comfortable in their own skin.
“I haven’t worn make-up since about February and have probably forgotten how to apply it,” she told Fair Play: The Women in Sport Show.
“I hope that, if anything positive can come from this year, it is those things of relaxing on the way we look.”
Adlington, who said last year that she had started therapy for anxiety and panic attacks, suggests she now has a better understanding of social media and that the abuse “has levelled off”.
“I’m very lucky that, over the past couple of years, those comments have become less and less,” she added.
“As long as you feel good about yourself, that’s all that matters.”