Two-time world swimming champion James Magnussen has been forced to defend his claim of ‘double standards’ for Winter and Summer Olympians.
After Australian snowboarding star Scotty James claimed bronze in the men’s halfpipe on Wednesday, Magnussen said athletes competing in PyeongChang face less media scrutiny because of the “laid-back and relaxed” nature of snow sports.
He also questioned whether James’ would have received the same level of support if he’d been competing in an event carrying the burden of greater expectations.
“They certainly seem to take a different mental approach at the Winter Olympics and I think as a result we, as the public and the media, are judging them less harshly than we may judge a [summer] Olympic athlete,” Magnussen told Fox Sports’ Bill and Boz.
“If Scotty James was a swimmer going into that event as the world champion and [was] expected to win – and he got bronze – how would we be reacting to that?”
The comments drew immediate fire.
This is a tad irritating. Not discounting the immense pressure @james_maggie91 must feel every time he dives in a pool for #AUS but does he risk breaking bones or internal injury every time he competes? Is there a half-pipe (like pools) around every corner to train? #CantCompare
— Dr Shirl Knight (@DrSAKnight) February 15, 2018
In response, Magnussen also took to Twitter to clarify what he meant.
My point re the winter/summer olympics is really simple: the reaction to Scotty James’ bronze medal was awesome and we should mirror that for medalists in the summer olympics. It shouldn’t be dependent on what sport an athlete is competing in.
— James Magnussen (@james_maggie91) February 15, 2018
Magnussen was widely criticised for missing out on gold in the 100m freestyle at the London Olympics in 2012, largely because of the confidence he displayed leading into the final.
In an interview on Melbourne radio, former Winter Olympian Jacqui Cooper blasted Magnussen’s suggestion that winter athletes face less pressure than their summer counterparts.
Jacqui Cooper on SEN 1116
Some of the response to Magnussen’s comments referenced the difference between government funding for summer and winter events, and suggested that as a reason why Winter Olympians face less scrutiny.
ASC funding for swimming this year – $10.9m. For all snow sports disciplines – $5.6m. No. of Olympic pools in AUS – 100s. No. of Olympic halfpipes in AUS – Zero.https://t.co/QrSrr6o3XN
— Tony Harper (@toneharper) February 14, 2018
Between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2020, the Australian Olympic Committee will have funded sports programmed for the Summer Olympics, to the tune of almost $23.4 million. In comparison, Winter Olympians will receive $9.6 million, over the same period.
Scotty James meantime is clearly happy with his performance.
After falling short to American superstar Shaun White and Japanese teenager Ayumu Hirano in a nail-biting final, he spoke of his euphoria at claiming his first Olympic medal, and said he looked forward to coming home to celebrate with friends and family.
A message from Olympic bronze medallist @scottyjames31 for all his supporters 🇦🇺🥉pic.twitter.com/Sdv7nLqHAM
— AUS Olympic Team (@AUSOlympicTeam) February 16, 2018
– Andre Cupido @AndreCupido10