This summer's in London will be shaped by social media like no sporting event in history. But 20 years ago, when figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi took home the gold medal at the 1992 games in France, social media was an unheard of concept.
Yamaguchi became a household name and global celebrity. But without , and other platforms, that experience was much different for her than it will be for this summer's Olympic stars.
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"Social media has changed so much," Yamaguchi told Mashable in an interview. "It's incredible that you can actually send an athlete a message now. Whether they respond or not, who knows, but you can actually feel a little bit in common with them. In the past, you couldn't really reach out to celebrities at all."
Long since retired from skating, Yamaguchi now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two daughters. Most of her time is devoted to her children's foundation. (She also won Dancing With the Stars in 2008.) But a couple of years ago, she says, she got as well -- first as way to follow volunteer organizations and breaking news, then as a prolific tweeter herself, posting about family life, health and sports.
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She says she'll be using Twitter to track the 2012 Olympics, and that gymnast and swimmer are two of her favorite follows. As a former Olympian, though, Yamaguchi is aware of the challenges that life in the always-on era of social media brings.
"Now you have to be smart about what you're putting out there, because once you do it's there forever," she says. "It's harder for young athletes to think about how it might affect them down the line or cause controversy, because people are very opinionated online and also braver to speak out online. You can't read everything that's there, because otherwise you'll just go crazy with the things people say about you."
So given the pros and cons, does Yamaguchi think she would have embraced Twitter the way she does now?
"If I was competing in this day and age, I would for sure be using it," she says. "Times have changed and people kind of want it and expect it now, but I would have loved to use it to reach out to fans."
Who are some former Olympians you wish had been on Twitter in their heyday? Let us know in the comments.
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This story originally published on Mashable .