A report by Jamie Pandaram for Australia’s Daily Telegraph.
EVEN Olympic gold medals don’t provide force fields for online trolling.
Monica Puig, who stunned the world by claiming gold at Rio 2016 by defeating world No. 1 Angelique Kerber to become Puerto Rico’s first and only Olympic champion, has endured negative online comments for years.
In a candid interview with the Sunday Telegraph ahead of the Sydney International, the tournament in which she made the final last year, Puig revealed her battle with keyboard warriors and why she has severely limited her use of Twitter.
“Even people I expect would be backing me continue to say I’m not good enough, or that the Olympics was just a piece of luck because I haven’t really won that many matches since,” Puig said.
“But that was a moment where I wasn’t ready for all this success, I wasn’t ready for the Olympics to happen, it just sort of happened.
“It just takes a while for you to settle down, it took me a while to come off the high of the Olympics and I was actually quite exhausted afterwards last year because I had a lot of commitments and pressure.
“People outside don’t realise that and don’t understand that their words are hurtful at times.
“I was an avid user of social media, now I’ve backed off quite a lot because of all of this negativity I was receiving.
“I promised myself after the Olympics that I wasn’t going to let it get the best of me anymore, and even this year one of my new year’s resolutions was not to read any feedback or comments about me, no matter if they’re positive or negative.
“Because in every three or four positive comments you’re going to get a negative one, and I’m not going to get caught up in that drama because it really takes a toll.”
Puig, 23, made a conscious decision to limit her social media use after realising she was seeking to be validated by others.
“Now I only use it when I want to, if I want to post something I go and post it,” Puig said.
“I use Instagram a lot more than I use Twitter because Twitter is more about the words and Instagram I just look at pictures.
“When I feel the need to post something I post it, but I’m not going to be posting every day or every other day because in reality the way I felt that I was using it, I was using it to get positive feedback.
“I would post a picture and look through all the comments to see what people say, or who liked it, I was looking for acceptance in a way.
“And I was like, ‘no’, the person who has to like it is myself.
“You could like pizza but there could be five people who don’t like pizza, but if you like it that’s the only opinion that matters.”
Puig’s incredible rise to the gold medal came just a year after she wanted to quit tennis.
“I had a really dark time in 2015 in Europe when I lost, before the French Open I had a bunch of first-round losses, I couldn’t win a match,” the world No. 32 said.
“I didn’t really know what was going on, I was a bit overweight, my mind was elsewhere.
“I didn’t know how I was going to bounce back from that. I started working with my coach who gave me a perspective on how to look at things and we really got down to working and he told to me take one thing at a time and the results will come if I work hard.
“I appreciate that moment because it showed me that I was in a place that was rock bottom, and then how I worked slowly into getting back to where I was.
“At 19 years old I made the fourth round of Wimbledon and suddenly I was up here, and then in an instant everything can go to being really negative.
“I had to really find that strength inside of me to say ‘OK, I can quit right now, or am I going to continue to bear down, battle, and fight my way through it’, and I ended up doing that and I think that was really brave at that moment.
“I was 21, 22, you have this idea in your mind of what you want to be doing, and it’s just not happening and you’re thinking ‘Did I just waste a lot of my time?’
“Then all of a sudden something comes around like the Olympics, and because I persevered and stuck it out this happened.”