Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Anorexia nightmare for Frost twins (written for Athletics Weekly 09/07).

Former Great Britain steeple-chasing duo, Bryony and Kathryn Frost have revealed the heartbreaking reason behind their sabbatical from the sport at the tender age of 21 – their agonising battle with anorexia; writes Nicola Bamford.

The disappearance of the two promising athletes was sudden and somewhat of a mystery until now. But, at aged 23, the Isle of Wight pair are finally ready to reveal the angst behind the decline in their athletic performances and expose the devastating health effects they faced, in an attempt to prevent other athletes from sliding down the same slippery path. The Frosts hope their revelation will act as a warning.

Tipped as potential 2012 hopefuls and dubbed the ‘Kournikova’s of running’-thanks to their striking blonde looks, the Hampshire girls explained how chasing their Olympic dream lead to a intense battle with the eating disorder; which subsequently saw their diets and track times spiral out of control; “We were determined to be the thinnest and the fastest on the track and soon became obsessed,” explained Bryony. “We went through phases when we’d eat just one thing at a time. We were caught up in our own little world.”

Studying at Loughborough University, away from the watchful eye of their parents, enabled the twins to continue the strict eating habits they had previously devised. The plan initially bore fruit, with Kathryn experiencing significant improvements in her favoured discipline; the steeplechase, and, inspired by her sister’s success, Bryony soon followed suit.

However, despite achieving considerable immediate athletic success, including appearances at the 2003 European Junior Championships, where the former Adidas-sponsored pair reached the semi-final stage in the 2000m steeplechase, their weight soon plummeted to just over 6st for Bryony and an alarming 5st for Kathryn.

Unsurprisingly, their performances then began to suffer as a consequence but the twins remained oblivious to the danger they were putting themselves under. “We were really determined and we shared the same ambition to run in the Olympics. We wanted to do the best and we’d do anything to get there. I thought if I were thinner, I’d run quicker, so I decided to diet,” Kathryn divulged.

The ultimate wake-up call for the 2002 u20 5000m gold and silver-medallists however, was when a bone density test discovered that Kathryn, at just age 21, had developed osteoporosis in her spine and Bryony had a stress fracture in her back. Evidently not eating enough and training too hard during their teenage years, their GP subsequently diagnosed the girls with anorexia; and their worst fears were confirmed-they’d have to give up running or face being paralysed.

“The doctor told us that if we carried on we’d end up in wheelchairs. We were devastated,” recalled Kathryn. “We must thank Bill Foster and a team of people at Loughborough University, who helped us get better.” Having not competed since 2004 in order to improve their bone density and regain their health, the ‘Frosties’ harbour hopes of returning to the sport which gave them so much joy and success; “We’ll never go back to being completely normal, but we have now accepted there’s more to life than running. It’s not worth risking our health for,” revealed Bryony.

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