Elite Athlete Training

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Two time national champion Gracie Gold finished fifth at Skate America and raised eyebrows when she said, “You don’t often see — there aren’t that many — you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason.” She went on to elaborate upon her initial statement, but most of the focus has been on her “overweight” comment. She was fresh off the ice when she was asked about her performance and quite possibly made her statement in the heat of the moment.

The following morning however, she clarified what she meant by her “overweight” comments. She stated, “To all my fans and friends. Thank you for the concern you have voiced. My comments in the mixed zone were spoken in the heat of the emotion. To clarify, I feel that my results this far in the season are a result of my decision to live a more ‘normal life’ this past summer. I traveled and really took time off from being an elite athlete. For a figure skater, there is an ideal body weight for top performance. It’s different for each athlete. That doesn’t mean scary skinny, but rather a lean, wiry composition. I realize that I am a healthy weight and I am rapidly regaining the strength and tone I desire . . . “

Athletes’ throughout the world struggle with their weight and many have an unhealthy view of themselves. I think that it’s great that Gracie Gold clarified herself and made it known that she doesn’t have an unhealthy view of her body. However, there are millions of athletes’ both youth and adults who struggle with trying to find the ideal body type to be considered elite in their particular sport. I totally understand the importance of being in peak performance shape so that your body can perform to the level you desire. There is undoubtedly a fine line between trying to develop an elite physique and having an unhealthy view of your body.

It’s very important that coaches and parents alike help our youth athletes understand what it takes to develop an elite physique that allows them to perform at an elite level. However, we must also help them know where to draw the line. An athlete should never put their physical health in jeopardy at the expense of winning a gold medal or a championship trophy. Sports should help athletes develop a healthy and fit lifestyle and not a lifestyle that is so rigorous that it causes them to fall into depression.

Gold referred to her time off from rigorous training as “living a normal life.” Now let’s be honest, to be elite in anything is going to require you to live, eat and train differently than the normal person. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with living, eating and training at a different level than the average person. In all actuality you can’t rise above the rest without having a lifestyle that rises above the rest. Sometimes it’s hard for an athlete to judge when they’ve gone too far and that’s when the coach, parents and loved ones have to step in to make sure the athlete doesn’t take it too far.