The public meltdown of Australia Olympic gold medal swimmer Grant Hackett triggered frenzied coverage in both the mainstream and social media. The Australian media have copped considerable criticism for their approach.
Grant Hackett has been a national icon since his 1500 metres freestyle victories at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 games in Athens. He has held a number of swimming world records and retired in 2008. He made a much-publicised comeback at the 2015 World Championships but was not selected for the 2016 Olympic team.
Hackett's issues with medication, mental health and his family have been public knowledge for some time. The latest controversy began with Hackett's arrest on February 15 following a ruckus in the home where he was living with his parents. Even the Australian Swimmers’ Association general manager and fellow swimming competitor, Daniel Kowalski, responded strongly to the news:
— Barrak (@BarrakKhan) February 15, 2017
Some tweeps had much harsher judgments. This tweet compared Hackett with former Australian Football League champion Ben Cousins whose drug-related incidents are notorious:
Grant Hackett is basically Ben Cousins in goggles.
— John Johnsonson (@JohnJohnsonson) February 15, 2017
However, Collezione Santina's sympathetic tweet was more typical of the social media response:
— Collezione Santina (@AltaModaSydney) February 16, 2017
Hackett had added fuel to the chatter about conflict with his family in January with his own very public contribution. Jessica Dietrich was not the only journalist to re-post this photo from Hackett's instagram account.
— Jessica Dietrich (@jessdietrich7) February 15, 2017
The account is now private.
The role and responsibilities of the media, both old and new, have been a focus of much of the online commentary:
#grantHackett typical Australian media, the guy give his life to make Australians proud now they abandon him and make fun of the hero
— Avereh Alex (@dariushfar) February 18, 2017
Members of the mental health community such as John Mendoza have similar requests:
— John Mendoza (@johno0910) February 16, 2017
The hypocrisy of the media…advocates supporting mental health & promoting awareness..but hounding Grant Hackett down the street 😒
— Clare Rowe (@clarezrowe) February 15, 2017
— Mindframe (@MindframeMedia) February 16, 2017
Regrettably, the private family problems continue to be played out in the public arena. Dave Thomson is clearly unimpressed:
— Dave Thompson (@thebundyeel) February 19, 2017