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Canadian diver Meaghan Benfeito takes part in a training session at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Villageat the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on July 26. (Sean Kilpatrick)
Canadian diver Meaghan Benfeito takes part in a training session at the Aquatic Centre in the Olympic Villageat the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on July 26. (Sean Kilpatrick)

Coaches wonder about good, bad of social media Add to ...

“I mean it’s so quick. You go on and you can go through it and you can see other results from other Canadians, you see messages of support, you can message your teammates. It was just kind of fun. I had pictures, I just felt like I was interacting with everyone and sharing my journey with people at home, which was exciting.”

Crewmate Ashley Brzozowicz of London, Ont., says social media helps her deal with the isolation during competition.

“We try to stay out of the hoopla. But to be able to feel the support of your friends and family at home and see what was going on without having to do a long phone call or whatever, you can just quickly check, people can send you a short message and you really felt like you were still a part of it.”

Chef de mission Mark Tewksbury is an enthusiastic newcomer to Twitter, reminding people of his handle when the subject comes up. Like most, he sees it as a positive if handled properly.

“I’ve become a real supporter and fan of it actually,” he said. “I was very reluctant to become a part of it. But for me, it serves so many different purposes. I’m able to get results from following the right people, because I’m at so many different venues and can’t get the information. I’m able to see the athletes and congratulate them, but also showcase the behind the scenes of what makes all this all happen by doing some shoutouts to the operational team.

“So I think it’s a really useful tool. We just have to be careful obviously and there are some parameters. We’re all learning. ... So so far so good.”

The Canadian team has no specific social media rules other than IOC guidelines that encourage athletes to use such platforms as a blog or a personal diary but not to function as a reporter.

“So we’re able to share our personal experiences but that as far as we can go,” Tewksbury said.

The other guideline is to respect the Olympic movement, “to be respectful and dignified in the way that we’re using (it),” he added.

The Canadian team has suggested to its athletes that if you’re new to Twitter, starting up during the Olympics Games is probably not a good idea.

Diver Roseline Filion of Laval says Twitter is harmless.

“It’s definitely not a distraction for me,” she said. “It’s fun. I like to see what people are up to. Especially here, it’s so much fun to tweet and tell everybody how we see things, how we feel and how we’re going through this process and they can feel like they’re here with us. It’s an opportunity for them as well to be included in the Olympics Games. If it was a distraction, I wouldn’t do it.”

Partner Meaghan Benfeito of Montreal says it’s been a positive.

“A lot of people we don’t know that have tweeted us good lucks. We checked before our event. It was amazing how many people know us. Our twitter has actually exploded. I think I went from a thousand to two thousand followers in four hours. It’s mostly positive. We haven’t had anything (negative) . . . well I haven’t, so far.”

But van Koeverden, who has had a website for more than five years that allows people to reach him via email, knows that social media can carry bad vibes

“I still have at last 150 unread messages from Beijing. I can’t go through them all. They’re all really nice but they’re all really similar too. And some of them are negative so I don’t really want to read them.”

The three-time Olympian from Oakville, Ont., who used Twitter to congratulate other Canadians for their performances from a pre-Olympic training camp in France, says he may pull back a bit during the Games.

“I’m going to try and moderate the use of Twitter a little bit, I don’t manage my own Facebook fan page so I don’t have to worry about that. I’ll think I’ll just do what I want.”

Last year at the world championships, he tweeted a reminder that his race was on TV in two hours time. But the worlds are not the Olympics, he noted.

“If I had notifications on my phone for Twitter then it would be going all day probably because there’s a lot.”

On the plus side, van Koeverden enjoys the interest that social media is showing in the Canadian Summer Olympians.

For others, it’s just more background noise. Geller, for one, says he has no need of any other communication pipelines.

“I find that I have a hard time just staying on top of my email,” he lamented. “So I’m just sticking with that.”

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