Friday, May 2, 2008
Secret world of a gymnast: starvation, sex and fear
The shocking new memoirs of a top US athlete reveal the dark side of the struggle to win gold
Paul Harris, New York
The Observer, Sunday April 27 2008
Jennifer Sey remembers exactly what it felt like to fly through the air, performing gravity-defying moves as a champion US gymnast. 'It is a transcendent experience. Pushing your body like that; it's beyond human,' she said.
But Sey was also pushing her body - and mind - in disturbing ways far beyond her feats of athleticism. In a shocking new book, the former No. 1 gymnast in America has revealed the terrible regime of starvation and abuse that lay behind her achievements.
Sey's memoir has sent shock waves through the tightly knit world of top athletes, sparking controversy as the Beijing Olympics loom. She has detailed widespread eating disorders, coaches suspected of being sexually attracted to their young charges, and a brutal physical regime that leaves gymnasts crippled in later life and bearing psychological scars. She describes a sometimes hellish experience in which she ended up so obsessed with losing weight that she did not menstruate until she gave up gymnastics and turned 20.
She was so addicted to laxatives that she once soiled herself in public. And the physical brutalities of her training and injuries left her years later with premature arthritis and permanently bruised feet and other physical problems.
More at the guardian.co.uk
Even in the most physically demanding sports, athletes with good perspective still enjoy the process it takes to achieve their best. A case could be made to limit the age of some sports like gymnastics where I wonder how much these athletes are choosing this experience vs it being chosen for them.
at 6:31 PM