The easiest way to avoid social media perils is to log off, Redgrave tells Olympians

Speaking to PRWeek from Rio de Janeiro, five-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Steve Redgrave discussed the extra pressure athletes face with the rise of social, his public "spat" with pundit John Inverdale and his highlight of Rio 2016 so far.

Steve Redgrave during the VR press conference at British House in Rio
Steve Redgrave during the VR press conference at British House in Rio

PRWeek was speaking to Redgrave as part of a virtual reality (VR) press conference, hosted by Samsung, from the British House in Rio. Using VR and live streaming tech, we were able to get a behind the scenes peek at the residence where Team GB relaxes post-competition – without leaving London.

Gymnast Louis Smith is one of the latest athletes to feel the heat on Twitter, after his disappointed reaction to winning a silver medal was criticised. Redgrave, who has been working as a pundit for the BBC in Rio, thinks this extra pressure is part and parcel of being a sportsperson these days.

"Social media is quite a difficult one to control," he said. "If you are an athlete and you want to be involved in that process, you have got to live and die by the sword in some ways. You are going to get comments coming back that you may not like, you do get a lot of encouraging replies, but you always get a lot of extremes and you’ve got to be able to take those. The easiest way to control it is to turn your device off."

Redgrave himself has also felt the scrutiny of social media – notably for his perceived spats with co-pundit John Inverdale. But he insisted that this was very much a misconception. "It’s very simple – there has never been any problem between John and I," he said.

"I had a disagreement with some of the backroom staff at the BBC about content and it went out that I had a tiff with John and that was not the case. It was sorted out very quickly and the last three days of rowing finished off fantastic with me and the BBC," he said, also saying that the most recent batch of articles saying they had fallen out again were "absolute nonsense".

Despite having seen many impressive medals won during this Olympics, Redgrave did admit to having three personal highlights – Bradley Wiggins’ fifth gold, Andy Murray winning his final and Justin Rose in the golf.

"The one event I wanted to be at, of all the events at the Games, was the team pursuit," he told PRWeek. "Being given the opportunity by the BBC to go down into the mixed zone and be able to speak to him [Wiggins] straight after. I know there’s a lot of mutual respect between us, but when he said that Chris Hoy and myself are his two best sporting heroes, that was a very special moment in his very, very special moment."

For someone as competitive as Steve Redgrave, though, the Team GB cycling gold rush is proving a little galling. "Yes, there’s another one, another cyclist that’s gone past me," he said. He went on to make a tongue-in-cheek suggestions: "I love track cycling, it’s a great atmosphere, it’s a great place to be, but there are too many Brits winning too many medals. I think we’ve got to ban cycling from the Olympics!"

Come back to PRWeek later for more from Redgrave and Samsung.

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