Fig­ure skaters open up about chal­lenges to be body pos­i­tive in a sport with such em­pha­sis on tra­di­tional fem­i­nin­ity,


REGINA— 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 the 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 twotime 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. Ath­letes com­pet­ing in weight-class sports and en­durance sports were also at an el­e­vated risk.

“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 this past 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 at just 15, opened up lately about her bat­tles with anorexia. The dis­ease dogged her for sev­eral years and she checked into a clinic last Jan­uary.

“Ul­ti­mately, for me, weight is some­thing I have to deal with every year, but I do it with food, be­cause I love food,” Os­mond said. “But it’s a strug­gle, it’s some­thing that I think about.”

Duhamel, who with Rad­ford cap­tured the Skate Canada pairs ti­tle over the week­end, is all strength and power in her four-foot-nine 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 31year-old. “Some­times I would go home from com­pe­ti­tions feel­ing so in­se­cure, think­ing ‘Oh those girls in the chang­ing room, they’re so tiny.’ I’m tiny, I just have a dif­fer­ent body type, I’m more stocky, with a mus­cu­lar body­type that’s not seen as much in pairs skat­ing. As I just got older, I ac­cepted my­self for what I have, and I learned I wouldn’t be able to do the things I can do on the ice if I didn’t have the body I have.”

Duhamel said once started study­ing holis­tic nu­tri­tion — she’s cur­rently do­ing a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­gram in sports and fit­ness nu­tri­tion — and be­came a ve­gan sev­eral years ago, she gained a greater un­der­stand­ing that “you can be in re­ally great shape and en­joy food.”

“You need to fuel your body and your mind. You can’t fo­cus for an en­tire day of train­ing if you haven’t eaten prop­erly, if you haven’t fu­elled your­self prop­erly. It goes beyond your body im­age, it goes to your fo­cus, to your en­ergy, to your sleep. All th­ese things that are so im­por­tant in your life are fu­elled from nu­tri­tion.”

It’s un­clear whether Gold will com­pete at the U.S. na­tional cham­pi­onships for a spot on the Pyeongchang Olympic team. She was fourth at the Sochi Games, and part of the U.S. squad that won bronze in the team com­pe­ti­tion. Duhamel and Os­mond praised Gold 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. “Ev­ery­body wishes well for any­body who’s go­ing through that sit­u­a­tion, and wants them to be able to come out the other side with an even bet­ter per­spec­tive.” Added Os­mond: “The peo­ple who are deal­ing with it now, I have the ut­most re­spect for them be­cause this sport is re­ally hard, it’s hard on the body.”


Amer­i­can skater Gra­cie Gold is sit­ting out the Grand Prix sea­son to re­ceive treat­ment for an eat­ing dis­or­der, as well as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

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