'Skinnier the better': Female swimmers 'admonished' over weight

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Cate Campbell, pictured here after winning gold in the 4x100m medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kaylee McKeown, Chelsea Hodges, Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell celebrate winning gold in the 4x100m medley relay at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

Aussie swimming great Cate Campbell has opened up on the infatuation male coaches have had with female athletes' weight in a new book written with sister Bronte.

The Olympic gold medallist claims female swimmers were told to use smaller plates at dinners and criticised in front of teammates if they gained the slightest amount of weight.

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In an extract from the book 'Sister Secrets: Life Lessons from the Pool to the Podium', published in the Sunday Telegraph's 'Stellar' Magazine, Campbell opened up on the impact of the body-shaming.

“Weight was, and still is, always a topic of conversation on pool decks or in swim teams," she writes.

“On my first Olympic team in 2008, all the girls were specifically told to use smaller plates at dinner so we wouldn’t overeat.

"Swimmers in other programs were subjected to weekly weigh-ins – in front of their entire squads – and publicly admonished if they had gained even a few hundred grams.

“The general consensus from most other male coaches was: the skinnier the better.

“Some of this mindset had begun to rub off on me.”

Responding to Campbell's claims, Jodie Hawkins from Swimming Australia said the organisation will continue to work towards “developing better ways of coaching.”

“We continue to work with our network of coaches and athlete leaders on developing better ways of coaching and communicating with our athletes to enable them to perform at the highest level," she said, according to The Guardian.

Bronte and Cate Campbell, pictured here at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Bronte and Cate Campbell at the Commonwealth Games in 2018. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Cate Campbell reveals battle with depression

Campbell won gold in the 4x100m freestyle relay and 4x100m medley relay at the recent Tokyo Olympics, as well as a bronze medal in the 100m freestyle.

She has won four gold, one silver and three bronze medals across four Olympic Games after debuting at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The 29-year-old opened up about her mental health in October, revealing she was diagnosed with depression last year.

“In July 2020 I was diagnosed with depression, in June 2021 — four weeks before the start of the Tokyo Olympics, I finally admitted I needed some medical help, and I am so grateful I did,” she wrote on Instagram.

“Mental health is not a sign of weakness. It does not discriminate. 

"It is very real, and most of us will face it at some point in our lives."

Campbell said she was sharing the news to try and change stigmas around mental health.

“I wish conversations about mental health were more common - if they were, I might have sought out help earlier than I did," she added.

"So I am sharing my story in the hopes it will prompt a conversation in your household, dispel a stigma, or encourage you to be a bit kinder to the person next to you.

“I still struggle to not feel shame around my mental health, so please be kind.”

Readers seeking support and information can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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