UK & World News
Olympian Quits After Eating Disorder Battle
A promising Olympic triathlete has told Sky News how she walked away from the sport just months before the London Games because of her battle with an eating disorder and depression.
Hollie Avil was World Junior Triathlon champion and World Under 23s Champion. Aged 18 she was ranked number one in the world and was the youngest ever athlete to podium in successive debut World Cup races.
"I had some fantastic times, but the bad times outweighed the good. I don't want to carry on the next few years being unhappy and risking my health," she said.
The 22-year-old developed an eating disorder early in her career after another athlete's coach said her weight would be an issue if she wanted to run faster.
Although she got it under control it returned in 2010 amid changes her coaching team and the squad structure at the British base in Loughborough.
"You become addicted to not eating and getting thinner, you just keep going and going and nothing gets in your way. As I saw myself loosing weight, I just wanted to keep going and kept thinking of other ways I could restrict my diet.
"I became a very sneaky person when I had my eating disorder. I would sneak around and lie a lot. I would say I was eating when I wasn't."
Finally, early in 2011, Avil admitted everything to her parents and her psychologist and they worked with her to try and kick the problem.
However, she has now decided to quit the sport, admitting her battle with depression, after suffering stress fractures in both her shins.
"When I was diagnosed with my stress fractures, I knew it would be a struggle for me to get fit enough for the qualifying races for the Games. I created so much pressure on myself as I was desperate to get fit and it broke my heart to think I wouldn't be going to London," she said.
"But I realised that not going to the Olympics was my path. I also realised not being a professional athlete anymore was also my path.
"I'd rather go to the Games to watch as a happy and healthy lady, than watch wishing I was there and knowing deep down I'm miserable."
Avil told Sky News that there was a "stigma" surrounding eating disorders among athletes.
"It's a bigger problem than we all know. Not just in women but in males too," she said.
"The topic becomes taboo though and no one wants to speak about it. We focus on injury prevention, but I also think sporting federations need to work more on eating disorder prevention too."
For now, Avil plans to take some time to herself and is heading to a yoga retreat in Thailand. But in the long term she hopes to move into coaching and personal training, and maybe helping those suffering from similar problems.
"I will always be here to help young athletes and want to make myself accessible to those who want to speak to me. I want to help male and females in anyway I can," she said.