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Olympic Athletes Are Getting Body Shamed on Social Media – A Former Olympian Speaks Out

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REUTERS/Dominic Ebenbichler

Apparently being one of the few people in the world to make it to the Olympics isn’t enough to save two Rio athletes from getting body shamed.

Mexican gymnast Alexa Moreno, who, according to her athlete page is a petite 4’10” and 99 lbs., started getting body shamed by Twitter users after she competed in the women’s individual all-around qualification.

Alexa Moreno
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty
The tweets, many of which have since been deleted, compared her shape to a picture of a pig. One tweet that’s still up jokes that Moreno only got into Rio because Mexico needed to fill an athlete quota.

Soon after though, the hate shifted and Twitter users came out in full support of Moreno.

“I’d love to see anyone body-shaming Alexa Moreno do that badass floor routine she pulled off,” wrote one. “She’s a tremendous athlete and cute as can be.”

Former Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, an ambassador for MISSION, tells PEOPLE that preconceived ideas of what an athlete’s body should look like doesn’t mean they’re not a standout in their sport.

“A six pack does not make you mentally tough to defeat your competitor. Ripped biceps doesn’t mean you are better. Putting in the work and having the drive in your heart is what makes people stand out,” Beard says. “A body is just a shell but how you move it is what puts you above everyone else.”

And Moreno wasn’t the only Olympian feeling the hateful wrath of Twitter users. Ethiopian swimmer Nobel Kiros Habte gained fans for his underdog status after he finished last, far behind the other swimmers, in his 100-meter freestyle heat Tuesday. But along with fans, he gained plenty of critics – including media outlets – who called him “chubby” and nicknamed him “Nobel the Whale.”

But Habte, 24, brushed off their comments and his last place finish, telling Reuters that he was just thrilled to be there.

“I am so happy because it is my first competition in the Olympics,” Habte says. “I wanted to do something different for my country, that’s why I chose swimming. Everybody, every day you wake up in Ethiopia, you run. Not swimming. But I didn’t want to run, I wanted to be a swimmer.”

“It didn’t matter where I finished.”

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Beard adds that part of the joy of the Olympics is celebrating athletes of every body type, from judo wrestlers to badminton players.

“I love seeing athletes come in all shapes and sizes! I think that’s what’s amazing about being an athlete,” she says.