American Olympian puts body image in spotlight
Consider the gossamer-thin dresses with tiny skirts, bright lights, judges and dozens of cameras capturing every square inch of skin. It’s no wonder figure skating can deliver a fierce blow to body image.
Canadian stars Kaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel can understand how an eating disorder can force a skater to back away from the sport like American star Gracie Gold. The Olympic bronze medallist confirmed recently she was being treated for an eating disorder, along with anxiety and depression, and is sitting out the Grand Prix season.
“I can’t say it surprises me, but it saddens me,” said Duhamel, a two-time world pairs champion with partner Eric Radford. “You don’t want anybody to have to experience something like that.”
According to Canada’s National Eating Disorder Information Centre, female athletes in esthetic sports — figure skating, dance, gymnastics — were found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders.
“Skating is really hard, especially women’s skating where we’re judged in little tiny dresses,” said Osmond, who captured her second Skate Canada International title over the weekend. “Definitely the way you see yourself makes a big difference and it’s really hard if you are a little bit heavier; the jumps are harder because you’re putting more weight up into the air.”
Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya, who captured gold at the Sochi Olympics, opened up about her battles with anorexia. She said the disease dogged her for years and she checked into a clinic last January.
Duhamel, who with Radford captured the pairs title over the weekend, is all strength and power in her four-foot-10 frame, but it took her some time to accept her muscular body.
“I don’t have a feminine lean body with these long lines and I tried so hard to be able to get rid of some of the muscle and develop these lines, but you can’t change genetics, you can’t change your body in a healthy way to a certain extent,” said the 31-year-old.
Duhamel and Osmond praised Gold, whose future in the sport remains in doubt, for putting her health first.
“We don’t want the sport to negatively affect somebody and the fact that maybe being involved in a sport that is about performance and wearing these little dresses on the ice, to think that might have affected their life in such a negative way, it’s sad and it’s disappointing,” Duhamel said.