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Athletes outrage at world’s obsession with body-image

female athletes face body-image crticism Comments from newspapers and social media sites suggest that female Olympians are being judged for how they look rather than how well they compete.

Only last week an Australian paper published an article suggesting Olympic athlete Leisel Jones might be too overweight to compete.

Days after the comments the 26-year-old swimmer went on to win a silver medal for her country in the 100m medley relay.

Similarly, world record-breaking athlete Zoe Smith received criticism on media platform Twitter for apparently looking like a ‘lesbian’ and a ‘bloke’. The 18-year-old British weight-lifter replied: “We don’t lift weights in order to look hot. We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.”

Even Jessica Ennis, the gold medal-winning heptathlon champion (with incredible rippling abs) was described as being ‘too fat’ by a high-ranking UK athletics official ahead of the games.

Whereas male athletes rarely get criticised for anything apart from their athletic performance, it seems female athletes can’t escape having their physical appearances scrutinised by the world’s media.

This adds to the pressure female athletes already face trying to hone their bodies into the ideal shapes and weights for their sports. This May, British triathlete Hollie Avil was forced to quit high-level sports after developing an eating disorder bought on by her coach criticising her weight.

Experts believe low self-esteem and low confidence have a lot to do with the lack of young girls participating in sport in this country. Only 12% of 14-year-old girls do enough exercise to meet the recommended guidelines in Britain.

Young women should not feel defined by the size or shape of their bodies, they should be able to relax knowing they are being judged solely on merit.

Often, physical shape is little indication of fitness or physical capability. U.S weight lifter Holley Mangold is a clear example of this – at 175kg, she is the heaviest athlete at the London Olympics.

Although young people should be encouraged to participate in sports, they should still remain aware of the risks involved. Partaking in any physical activity can not only put a strain on the joints, muscles and bones, but it can also affect the state of the mind. Alternative and complementary therapies tend to focus on the mind and body as one, helping patients feel at peace with their bodies.

For more information on the kinds of therapies available for sports injuries and sports-related stress, please visit our Therapy Topics section.

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Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

Written by Zoe Thomas

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