The disappointing Olympic result of ‘jiggling’ Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke has attracted harsh criticism after she failed to make the semi-finals in Rio.
Jenneke, 23, who rose to fame after footage of her alluring warm-up moves went viral during the 2012 World Junior Athletics Championships, ran a second slower than her personal best on Tuesday to finish sixth.
Despite the athlete explaining she had been hit with nerve pain in the lead-up to her race, numerous Australian media outlets panned Jenneke for appearing in advertising campaigns without a world title under her belt.
But Jenneke fans have called out the criticism as unfair, with one social media user pointing out it wasn’t Jenneke’s fault her warm-up dance went viral when she was just 19.
Sports exercise psychologist Jacqui Louder said it was “unfair” for the public to “flip the rules” on Jenneke after embracing her for her bubbly personality.
Jenneke ‘falls flat’
Australia’s Daily Mail led its homepage with a comparison of ‘Jiggling Jenneke’ and Australian gold-medal winning trap shooter Catherine Skinner.
“Australian shooter won gold with no sponsorship and little fanfare – while Michelle Jenneke earns millions and appears on Coke billboards in Rio despite NEVER making a final,” read the blistering headline.
Watch the dance that made Jenneke famous:
The article did not make mention of the silver medal Jenneke won at Junior World Championship level, or the fact this was her Olympic debut.
Another article in The Decider compared Jenneke to tennis player Anna Kournikova, whose good looks “stole attention from other, more accomplished athletes”.
“Lots of fizz in the ads but hurdler Michelle Jenneke falls flat at the track,” read the Fairfax headline, which referred to Jenneke’s reported million-dollar contract with Coca Cola.
Even former Australian champion Jana Pittman weighed in on Jenneke’s disappointing run, telling Sunrise: “She’s well known for her dance that’s made her a global sensation, but it’s not necessarily for her performance.”
Ms Louder said the negative coverage was more likely to affect Jenneke if she hadn’t “separated her performance from herself as a person”.
“They need to know that it doesn’t define them,” she told The New Daily.
Ms Louder said it was unfair for the public to elevate Jenneke for her not-athletic attributes, then tear her down when she didn’t win a medal.
“Realistically, the things people are writing are probably things she has thought herself,” she said.
Not a ‘serious athlete’
Jenneke’s mother told News.com.au her daughter enjoyed filming the Coca Cola ad – which has been plastered all over Rio – but often says no to endorsements she “doesn’t believe in”.
“She says no to a lot more than she says yes to,” she revealed.
Jenneke fans (she has over 400,000 of them on social media) called the criticism unfair.
While I agree it's a shame Michelle Jenneke is more famous for her jiggle than sport, I'm VERY uncomfortable with the nasty turn it's taken
— Sophie Aubrey (@sopphie) August 17, 2016
@MJenneke93 keep doing you girl. Your enthusiasm is inspiring.
— Malinda (@FreelyVivacious) August 17, 2016