Body image insecurity rife in women’s sport, finds survey

"Far too much focus on what women look like", says sports minister


(Image: Frank Wechsel)

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Female athletes feel themselves under massive pressure to conform to a certain look and body type, with many saying their appearance is placed before talent and achievements, according to a new survey. 

Of more than a hundred sportswomen polled by BT Sport, an overwhelming majority (80%) said they feel under pressure to look a certain way, and nearly all empathised with Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington after her emotional outburst on the subject during ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here’. 

While the media and social media were a common factor named by respondents, some also said that pressure came from coaches and fellow athletes. In the sport of triathlon, Britain’s Hollie Avil retired shortly before the 2012 Olympics after a long struggle with an eating disorder which she says stemmed from the comment of a male coach.

Describing Britain’s elite female athletes as some of the most positive role models that girls can look up to, UK sports minister Helen Grant said: “There’s far too much focus on what women look like instead of what they can and do achieve in life. 

“I want all the support they receive to be geared to them reaching their full potential as athletes.”

Those polled for the survey came from 20 sports, including swimming, football, cycling, tennis, golf, athletics, snow sports, cricket, equestrian, triathlon, hockey, rugby, volleyball, badminton, boxing, canoe, basketball, rowing, gymnastics and weightlifting.

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