Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon, who has made headlines for helping the U.S. team to a bronze medal in Pyeongchang and criticizing Vice President Mike Pence for his anti-LGBT record, has spoken up about eating disorders in men’s skating, revealing that at one point his daily diet consisted of three slices of bread.
In an interview with the New York Times, Rippon, 28, said that he dropped weight after worrying about his ability to compete with younger, slimmer skaters. “I looked around and saw my competitors, they’re all doing these quads, and at the same time they’re a head shorter than me, they’re 10 years younger than me and they’re the size of one of my legs,” he said.
Urged to lose weight by his new coach a few years ago, Rippon said he had adopted the diet of three slices of whole grain bread, topped with a bit of margarine, plus three cups of coffee at each meal. “It makes me dizzy now to think about it,” he said.
Last year, U.S. figure skater Gracie Gold, who many envisioned on the podium this Olympics, stepped away from the sport to deal with an eating disorder. Body image issues and draconian diets are common among men in the sport as well. “It’s the same now as it was in my day, and I think it’s all figure skaters,” former champion skater Brian Boitano told the Times. “We all live during our Olympic careers, and after our competitive careers, with an interesting relationship to food.”
Former Olympian Johnny Weir, now an infamously colorful NBC commentator, said he still maintains his training diet: One meal a day, before 5pm, and coffee.
After breaking his foot last year, Rippon says he began working with a sports dietitian. He has gained 10 pounds and no longer feels the “fog of fatigue” that accompanied his starvation-meal regimen, he says. His first Pyeongyang skate was acclaimed, and he holds a spot in the culture as the first openly gay U.S. athlete to qualify for the Games.
David Raith, executive director of U.S. Figure Skating, told the Times that Gold’s eating disorder “opens our eyes to what more we could do. We’re very sensitive to what’s happening, and as we go forward we will learn from this experience, and hopefully we’ll support all our athletes moving forward,” he said.