London - A
casual conversation while training in her local pool led to Lizzie
Simmonds facing an unlikely Twitter attack after the British swimmer
became known to millions of sports fans in the United States.
Getting in some extra training outside her scheduled sessions with
the University of Edinburgh, Simmonds found herself back at the Royal
Commonwealth Pool on Friday, having won both the British 100m and 200m backstroke titles at the venue the week before.
But in the middle of a public session, the 27-year-old two-time Olympian was uncertain which lane she should be in.
"I got in the wrong end to begin with," Simmonds told Britain's Press
Association. "Half of the pool was being used for swimming lessons and
they had lanes in the rest of it.
"They made it really shallow, less than a metre. I was swimming along
thinking 'it's a bit shallow'. That's when I met the lady."
After complimenting Simmonds on her ability, her fellow swimmer suggested she seek to take the sport seriously.
A hesitant Simmonds replied before telling her companion that she "went to a couple of Olympics".
The lady responded: "Me too! Which sports did you get manage to get tickets for?"
Simmonds posted the amusing conversation on Twitter and thought nothing more of it.
But it has since been re-tweeted more than 26 000 times and been seen by more than 5.5 million people.
But when US broadcaster ESPN's SportsCenter shared the tweet on
Sunday, Simmonds found herself in the middle of a social media firestorm
amid suggestions she had been "arrogant".
"It was just a funny conversation I had, because it was so awkward
for us to get past the point that we'd gone to the Olympics for totally
different reasons," Simmonds explained.
"I've never been attacked on
"It's been taken out of context... I don't think anybody who knows me has called me pompous or arrogant or obnoxious.
"I'm not a big name, I'm not a celebrity, people don't recognise me
in the street and I have no expectation that somebody should know who I
But swimming in a public session also led some Twitter followers to
think Simmonds, who has won two European titles and will represent
England at a third Commonwealth Games in Australia next month, had given
up on her competitive career.
"I've had a lot of people that thought I've retired because I'm
swimming in a public session," she said.
"That's a bit awkward as I'm
about to go to the Commonwealth Games."