She was one of Team GB’s medal hopefuls, had been kitted out in the official kit by Stella McCartney… and was also in the grips of an eating disorder.
Last month triathlete Hollie Avil announced she was giving up on her Olympic dream. And this week, she talks exclusively to Grazia about her battle with weight… and why she decided to stop competing.
‘When I was 16 I competed at the Junior World Championships, coming 11th out of 80 girls. I was really chuffed, but my coach said to me, “Swimming won’t make you faster Hollie, losing weight will make you run faster which counts. You need to watch that weight of yours.”
‘I was shocked. Nobody had ever said about anything my weight before and I didn't think there was anything wrong – but I instantly took it to heart.’
In her bid to get gold, Hollie reveals how she would eat only lettuce, porridge with water and a cereal bar. She’d then train rigorously for three hours… often leaving her faint.
‘My training definitely suffered due to my diet’, she admits. ‘In swimming training I was so thin that I would get too cold in the water. I also struggled to float as I didn’t have any buoyancy. I became addicted to not eating and just kept getting thinner and thinner.’
She’s not the only one. The issue is so serious, the UK’s first clinic dedicated to treating athletes with eating disorders has now opened at Loughborough University.
For Hollie, she finally realised the toll it was taking on her health. ‘It is sad for me to hang up the race shoes and say I'm not doing this anymore but I'm really excited for what the future may hold. I’ve got my whole life ahead of me… and, thankfully, my health.’
Read the full story in this week’s issue of Grazia, on sale now.