Pool chat puts swim star in unlikely Twitter storm
London - A casual conversation while training in her local pool led to Lizzie Simmonds facing an unlikely Twitter attack after the British swimmer became known to millions of sports fans in the United States.
Getting in some extra training outside her scheduled sessions with the University of Edinburgh, Simmonds found herself back at the Royal Commonwealth Pool on Friday, having won both the British 100m and 200m backstroke titles at the venue the week before.
But in the middle of a public session, the 27-year-old two-time Olympian was uncertain which lane she should be in.
"I got in the wrong end to begin with," Simmonds told Britain's Press Association. "Half of the pool was being used for swimming lessons and they had lanes in the rest of it.
"They made it really shallow, less than a metre. I was swimming along thinking 'it's a bit shallow'. That's when I met the lady."
After complimenting Simmonds on her ability, her fellow swimmer suggested she seek to take the sport seriously.
A hesitant Simmonds replied before telling her companion that she "went to a couple of Olympics".
The lady responded: "Me too! Which sports did you get manage to get tickets for?"
Simmonds posted the amusing conversation on Twitter and thought nothing more of it.
But it has since been re-tweeted more than 26 000 times and been seen by more than 5.5 million people.
But when US broadcaster ESPN's SportsCenter shared the tweet on Sunday, Simmonds found herself in the middle of a social media firestorm amid suggestions she had been "arrogant".
"It was just a funny conversation I had, because it was so awkward for us to get past the point that we'd gone to the Olympics for totally different reasons," Simmonds explained.
"I've never been attacked on social media.
"It's been taken out of context... I don't think anybody who knows me has called me pompous or arrogant or obnoxious.
"I'm not a big name, I'm not a celebrity, people don't recognise me in the street and I have no expectation that somebody should know who I was."
But swimming in a public session also led some Twitter followers to think Simmonds, who has won two European titles and will represent England at a third Commonwealth Games in Australia next month, had given up on her competitive career.
"I've had a lot of people that thought I've retired because I'm swimming in a public session," she said.
"That's a bit awkward as I'm about to go to the Commonwealth Games."
Lady in public lane: you’re very good at swimming you know..— Lizzie Simmonds (@LizzieSimmonds1) March 10, 2018
Me: erm, thanks
Lady: no seriously, you should try and do a trial with the county club!
Me: erm, well I actually went to a couple of Olympics..
Lady: me too! Which sports did you get manage to get tickets for?
I did a tweet about a conversation with a sweet old lady.— Lizzie Simmonds (@LizzieSimmonds1) March 12, 2018
Piers Morgan made it go viral.
ESPN turned America against me.
Kind people are battling with faithful indignation to defend my honour.
Trolls are throwing scathing insults and burning effigies.
The internet is mad.
To clarify for those on high horses - she was a lovely lady and we subsequently had a wonderful chlorinated conversation about the benefits of swimming.— Lizzie Simmonds (@LizzieSimmonds1) March 10, 2018
I had zero expectation that she should know I was an athlete, it was just an awkward initial hurdle in our end of lane chat!