‘The worst it’s ever been’: Olympic hopeful Alice Kinsella using online hate to fuel success

Disparaging comments won’t stop Kinsella from seeking glory in Tokyo this summer

Peter White
Tuesday 25 May 2021 17:10 BST

Alice Kinsella has urged social media trolls to think before they type after a torrent of abuse plagued her bid for the Olympic Games.

The 20-year-old gymnast won three medals on her Commonwealth Games debut in 2018 and gold on the beam at the 2019 European Championships.

With only four berths available in what is a very competitive GB squad, a late change to the equipment used at Olympic Trials had been mooted to favour Kinsella.

That led to a torrent of abuse from the 'gymternet' which Kinsella addressed in a post on Instagram and Twitter at the start of May, and while she accepts the life of an elite athlete, believes some people went too far.

“It’s definitely the worst it’s ever been - I just kept scrolling and scrolling through messages of hate,” said Kinsella, who is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo.

“I just don’t think people think before they start typing. Being a sportsperson you know you’re not going to appeal to everyone, and I think you can either let it pull you back or use it as motivation.

“It definitely fuels my drive to prove them all wrong. That started with the last of the trials in Cardiff, and suddenly after I did well there a lot of the haters were hiding and changing their minds.”

Strong performances in the floor and beam events at the final two trials earlier this month boosted Kinsella’s chances of a spot on the plane to Japan, after a somewhat disappointing European Championships in April.

The two-country rule prevented her from earning a place in the all-around final and dashed any hopes of replicating her exploits from two years earlier, but Kinsella - the daughter of former Republic of Ireland international footballer Mark - is confident she can bounce back on sport’s greatest stage.

“It’d be a dream come true to get to Tokyo. It’s been on my mind for the whole of this year, and though I’m feeling confident it is stressful now just waiting to find out if I’ve done enough,” she said.

“I remember watching some of my idols such as Nastia Liukin and Beth Tweddle compete in Beijing and London, and I was actually able to go out to Rio as part of an ambitions' programme, which inspired me even more.

“My main aim over there would be just enjoy to it and take in the experience, but I’d like to think I could make all-round and beam finals, as well as the team final. In gymnastics anything can really happen on the day.

“Europeans this year didn’t quite go to plan, but it was the first competition back after coronavirus. It was good to blow away some cobwebs back on the competition floor, and get that practice in ahead of the summer. There were positives to take and I know if I’d been at my best I’d have been up there.”

Teenager Jessica Gadirova stole the headlines from a GB perspective in Switzerland with three medals - including floor gold - on her major international debut.

Although competition for Olympic places is tight, Kinsella was thrilled with her teammate’s success.

She said: “I was super happy for Jess, and for Am [Amelie Morgan] as well getting bronze on bars.

“Obviously I wanted to be up there competing myself, but sometimes it just doesn’t go your way. I was there for the girls competing, I was supporting them and I was super happy for them.”

Despite enduring her fair share of social media issues recently Kinsella believes platforms such as FaceTime and WhatsApp will be more valuable than ever if she does make the Team GB Olympic squad.

While her parents, brother, sister and boyfriend won’t be there to support her in person as originally planned, Kinsella will be making the most of any free time to keep them firmly in amongst the action via technology.

She added: “Keeping in touch with my family will be really important to me over there. I’ll be FaceTiming them all every day, and it’ll be reassuring knowing they’ll be watching and cheering on from home when I’m competing.

“Not having overseas fans and not being able to socialise is going to be a bit strange, but I still think the Olympics will definitely be special. The main thing is we’re going out there to compete, and I just can’t wait to get going now.”

Alice Kinsella is working with Purplebricks to encourage the nation to get behind Team GB on their journey to Tokyo, with the same amazing home support as London 2012. Visit @PurplebricksUK or https://www.purplebricks.co.uk/team-gb

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