Jess Learmonth on Naomi Osaka and dealing with the media

Jess Learmonth opens up on her own struggles with dealing with media and the recent high-profile furore surrounding Naomi Osaka.

Last updated -

Great Britain Olympic triathlon star Jess Learmonth is always refreshingly honest in her dealings with media, even if it is something she openly admits she does not enjoy.

The topic of athletes dealing with the press corps became a huge topic of debate during the recent French Open tennis championship, when Naomi Osaka said in advance she would not be attending mandatory press conferences.

The four-time Grand Slam winner said she was doing so to minimise the impact those interactions with media had on her mental health. She was subsequently fined by Roland Garros, and soon after she pulled out of the tournament.

Tokyo 2020 is the next huge global event on the sporting calendar, when the world’s media will have a laser focus on what is happening in the Japanese capital.

The 33-year-old Learmonth has subsequently given her take on the whole issue ahead of her bid for glory at the Games – and she went in depth on her own struggles with media duties.


Jess Learmonth and dealing with media

Writing in her column for Super League Triathlon, Jess said: “There’s been a lot in the headlines about athletes dealing with the media after what happened with Naomi Osaka and when I first started triathlon I honestly would avoid the media at all costs.

“If there were any pre-race interviews or anything like that I couldn’t cope with it. I found it unnatural.

“When I first got on programme with British Triathlon they send you away to get to know each other. I didn’t sleep for a week while we were there and got ill because I was so nervous about speaking in front of people – and there were only about 10 of us, and nothing like Naomi has to deal with. I tried to get out of going after that because mentally I couldn’t get around it.”

When sports fans see athletes speaking confidently to a media scrum, they see it as second nature. As Jess says, that does not mean it is a skill they are born with.

She admitted: “I might be able to do triathlon but I’m not a media person and I couldn’t do this column without some help. I’m just not good at public speaking.

“I get asked to go to primary schools and speak to kids and, I know this sounds laughable, but I did it once and it was the most horrendous thing I have ever done. I am so scarred from it I can’t do it again.

“I think sometimes people think it comes naturally to everybody. You see people like Andy Murray who speak so well and they are so accomplished that you might think everyone can do it.”

Jessica Learmonth Georgia Taylor-Brown / Tokyo 2019 ITU World Triathlon Olympic Qualification Event
Learmonth where she feels comfortable – on the course

It’s easier now – Learmonth

Despite her struggles, Jess says she has gradually grown to accept the fact that dealing with media comes with the sport. The sympathy she has for stars like Osaka though is abundantly clear.

“I have come to appreciate it is part of the sport. I would be turning down things and my partner Jon would say to me ‘it’s not good for you and you need to get out there because it’s part of the sport and promoting it.’

“As time has gone on I have found it a little bit easier and the thing I always think is that if I don’t do it then it’s not fair on other athletes who do have to do it.

“I don’t have a solution to the issues that have arisen, but I really do sympathise.”

Jess will compete for Great Britain along with Vicky Holland and Georgia Taylor-Brown in the women’s triathlon at Tokyo on July 27. She will then (subject to selection), take part in the new mixed relay format on July 31. Get all the details in our Tokyo 2020 triathlon explainer.

Graham Shaw
Written by
Graham Shaw
Graham has been involved with TRI247 & RUN247 since the summer of 2021. Since then he has provided strategic direction for all news and is passionate about the growth of triathlon as a fan sport.
Discover more
Sumarpo vanguard vs Zone 3 Vanquish X triathlon wetsuits
ZONE3 Vanquish X wetsuit vs Sumarpo Vanguard wetsuit – how do these triathlon wetsuits match up?
Essential Beginner's Triathlon Gear & KIt
Triathlon gear for beginners: essential kit for getting started
open water swimming Sumarpo wetsuit
How to improve swimming endurance – PRO tips to help you swim further in open water
sumarpo triathlon swimming wetsuit
Wetsuit buying guide – How to choose the best wetsuit for triathlon, open water swimming, SwimRun and cold water
Aviles Duathlon
What is a duathlon? Beginner’s guide to distances, training plans and kit
latest News
Alex Yee WTCS Pontevedra 2023
Olympic Games triathlon: British gold medal favourite Alex Yee warms up for Paris 2024 with another win
Hannah Berry took the win at IRONMAN Cairns in Queensland,
IRONMAN Cairns 2024 Results: Burton and Berry take Asia-Pacific titles as Skipper misses podium
Lucy Charles-Barclay wins IRONMAN France 2024
IRONMAN France 2024 results: Lucy Charles-Barclay validates World Championship spot with CRAZY run
Gustav Iden Kona athlete sign in 2022 photo credit Donald Miralle for IRONMAN
Gustav Iden shares heartfelt message after major milestone on the journey back to the top
Sam Long celebrates at the San Francisco T100.
Sam Long targeting two major T100 races after season break to resolve personal problems
triathlon on your terms
Never miss out with our triathlon alerts & digest. Get a dose of adventure & inspiration with Boundless.
Invalid email address
The SBRX Group

Proudly elevating endurance sports through content, products & services

Share to...