Maren Lundby was the world’s top female skier for over three years, starting in 2018 when she was awarded Olympic silver in South Korea.
In the Beijing Games, the Norwegian had the chance to become the first twice Olympic winner in her field. However, she chose not to participate in this year’s World Cup season and a trip to China to compete in the Olympics to focus on her mental and physical health as a top priority.
“I decided not to compete because I gained some weight,” Lundby stated Tuesday during an interview for The Related Press. “I think I can’t compete on the amount I would like to.”
In the past couple of months, Lundby is now a vocal advocate of the change of the sport that had historically seen athletes suffer from eating disorders when they were teenagers and all to try to become as light as is possible to squeeze as many inches out of their journeys in the air.
USA Nordic president Billy Demong, a five-time Olympian in Nordic combined, stated that ski jumping has been “one of the most eating-disorder plagued sports” due to the desire to keep weight off.
“Some players were too naive at times back in the day during my era. Between 2000 and 2005, it got highly terrible. “Fat doesn’t fly,” things like this. It’s not something I’m going to allow a coach to speak about, but the athletes communicate with each other and watch it on television,” Demong said earlier this season while training at Lake Placid, New York.
“We’re talking about 6-foot men between 105 and 110 pounds. Extremely light. A few guys could do it, and another would starve themselves in the incorrect way and end being on the hospital bed.”
A 27-year old Lundby has become the most recent athlete to ignite discussion about the intensity of top-level sport — and what’s no longer working for athletes concerned about their physical health and others.
U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles has withdrawn from Simone Biles’s withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics to take care of her well-being after similar actions during the French Open by Naomi Osaka. U.S. skiing stars Mikaela Shiffrin, and Jessie Diggins have talked about personal struggles. The latter wrote a book about difficulties female athletes face while facing unrealistic pressures to fit a particular body kind of body.
“Simone Biles, Mikaela Shiffrin, Jessie Diggins — the ones that have shared their stories with mental health — have been great,” said U.S. ski jumper Casey Larson who will be competing for the second time in Olympics in the next few days. “It certainly helped us increase the profile of athletes struggling in the world. It’s certainly a fantastic story.
“But after the day, skiing jumpers got to be lean if you wish to move much,” Larson said.
The International Ski Federation has attempted to encourage athletes to make good choices in managing their weight.
The greater the ski surface they own, the more they can fly. If the body max index of 21 or higher, the skis can be for as long as 145 percent of the height. However, FIS requires skiers to make use of shorter skis when their BMI is less than 21, which is thought to be a healthy weight for women and men.
One of the greatest athletes in the sport, the Finnish’s Matti Nykanen, was listed as 5-foot-8 and 120 pounds in the 2010 Olympics, and his BMI was one of an “underweight” 18.5 with those numbers. A year after, Sara Takanashi of Japan was 5 feet tall, barely 100 pounds, but had was able to maintain a “healthy” BMI of 19.
Lundby has said that she believes it’s important to voice her opinion on the weight issue. She said she thinks it’s “perfect for telling all the young athletes not to make stupid decisions and suffer.”
“The improvements managed to get simpler for anyone to truly have the right weight, but for some, it’s still hard and quite challenging for your health in the long term,” Lundby stated. “I would love to be able to jump higher weights; however, at present, it’s not the case. I’d like to see some modifications to the rules to make it more accessible to every athlete to become an expert Ski jumper.”
Ski jumpers are typically slim and tall, using their height and height to possess more giant skis and less weight, which helps in their fight against gravity. It’s not just skiing jumpers who are athletes who are under pressure to control their weight, as they are joined by the likes of jockeys, wrestlers, and gymnasts, to name a few.
“Fat doesn’t generally wind up soaring very far,” Larson stated. “But also, for probably the most portion, USA Nordic has been great in getting us the help we need.”
USA Nordic, which trains American ski jumpers and Nordic combination athletes, has been working to prevent the development of eating disorders before they begin. The group has joined forces together with NYU Langone Health to inform skiers about the dangers of cutting back on weight.
“You will have effects not encouraging your system how it will be fueled, maybe not right away, but over time,” said Nicole Lund, a NYU Langone Health clinical nutritionist who collaborates on behalf of USA Nordic athletes. “They’re young, and they may not understand that quite yet, but that is something to keep in mind.”
Although Lundby has taken her time from competing, she’s still a part of the sport. She’s training with the hope of returning in the coming winter while also traveling across Europe as an analyst on ski jumping television.
“I want to be there,” she declared about the Games. “I’m an athlete, and I’d like to be able to claim the gold medal. If I’m not there is hard, so I’m eagerly awaiting the ceremony to close.”
Lundby has to wait for another four years before getting an opportunity to compete for Olympic gold. But some say it’s time to recognize the bravery she’s displayed through sharing her story.
“She’s a person that many women, a lot of athletes, have looked up to,” Demong stated. “I respect her a lot for having that kind of foresight six months out from the Olympics that she would potentially win.”