Hannah Craig: Social media has positives and negatives for female athletes

Hannah Craig
Hannah Craig impressed by securing a place in the K1 final in the 2012 Olympics

Hannah Craig believes social media can be beneficial for promoting female sport but also has its downside.

The London 2012 Olympic finalist is approaching the end of her canoeing career but hopes to take part in the rescheduled Tokyo 2021 Games.

"Social media can have great benefit for women's sport," said Hannah.

"But it's very difficult sometimes to post images relating to the female athlete body. It can get very intense sometimes in comments that are made."

She added: "For me I wouldn't do it but other women do and it can be very, very difficult for them."

The Armoy native finished 10th in the K1 final for Ireland in London eight years ago and explains her personal use of social media has been "quite reserved by choice".

"Recently I became aware that I had a role to play as a role model for younger paddlers," the 37-year-old told BBC Radio Ulster's Sportsound Extra Time.

"Canoeing Ireland started a programme called 'Bridge the Gap', which I am an ambassador for, to increase participation in canoeing for women."

'There isn't enough conversation around pregnancy'

Craig has two sons, aged six and three, and reveals that while returning to her sport after her pregnancies has presented its difficulties, it has also helped in some respects.

"I started training two weeks after my first child was born. That was a choice as there were 15 months to go until the Olympic qualifier," she reflected.

"After having my second child I took a year off and I have had to adapt to the changes that have happened to my body.

"My gym stats may not have been as good but I was stronger in the boat because I had learned to use my body better, connect better and use different training techniques.

"In general there isn't enough conversation around the issue and not enough mechanisims in place. I'm coming to the end of my career and am at a point where I will be very vocal about these issues."

'In the mental script I had written, Tokyo 2020 was the end'

Craig had hoped to end her career on a high by competing at this year's Olympics but has had to re-focus her efforts, both physical and financial, towards being part of the Tokyo Games in 2021.

"In the mental script I had written, Tokyo 2020 was the end. That was my exit point and that's what I had set my focus on," she said.

"I had done a crowdfunding for that and I had financially planned for that so when the pandemic hit it was about four months left financially.

"I had to work out how I was going to do it now because you've got to add an extra 12 months on.

"Financially I wasn't in a great situation to start with, so I ended up using the opportunity of the pandemic to apply for a job with Canoeing Ireland.

"I got a part-time coaching role with a high level of flexibility which enables me to prepare over the next months for Tokyo 2021."

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