Fat? Really? Olympic hope laughs off official’s jibe – but others aren’t amused


The row over remarks branding the champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis “fat” escalated today as other female athletes spoke of similar taunts.

The comments were reportedly made to Ennis’ coach last year by a high-ranking official in UK Athletics who also said she was “carrying too much weight”.

The 5 feet 4 inches poster girl for Team GB who is one of the best hopes for Olympic Gold, weighs 8 stone 13 lbs. today she laughed off the remarks about her famously honed physique, reportedly made to Tony Minichiello. “Its not something I worry about. I can just kind of brush it off and ignore it,” she said. Fellow athletes today sprang to Ms Ennis’ defence. Team mate Louise Hazel branded the remarks “ a disgrace” and said she had been subject to similar harassment about her weight.

“It's not a nice feeling to be called overweight. Some people think that you have to look like you are completely emaciated to actually be in physical shape and that’s not the truth,” she said. She added: “There needs to be more support rather than more criticism and it is as simple as that.” Minichiello told The Guardian that “people in high positions ... should know better” and that Ennis did not need distractions in the run up to the Games. But he played down the row today, pointing out he did the interview with the paper in November and saying: “I think the biggest problem I’ve got this week is counting to ten.”

Susan Ringwoood, chief executive of b-eat, the eating disorders association, said the comments were “completely unacceptable”. “We know they are unhelpful to anyone, let alone someone in peak physical perfection. ”

Athletes have a unique body composition, she said. “They have much more muscle, which is heavy, and very little body fat. You can be slender and muscled and appear to be heavy for your height. The nature of an athlete’s sport also affected their body shape. Sprinters needed explosive power with lots of muscle while marathon runners needed lean bodies built for endurance. Heptathletes such as Ms Ennis required a bit of everything.

The remarks are all the more surprising because sporting bodies are increasingly sensitive to female body image issues. On its website the IOC dispenses advice to women, warning of “scientific evidence that, under certain circumstances, the healthy body image of some female athletes can suffer through sport.”

There are an estimated 1.6 million people with eating disorders in the UK , caused by a desire for perfection and control which is undermined and turned inward as a destructive force by low self esteem.

Triathlete Hollie Avil, who represented the UK at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, earlier revealed she had suffered from an eating disorder after a coach’s comment.

The former World junior champion said she virtually starved herself after being told in 2006 that the best way to improve her swimming was to watch her weight .

“You start cutting things out of your diet and it all catches up with you until it possesses your life,” she said.

UK Athletics declined to comment.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable