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Ski-jumping’s forbidden word: anorexia

18 December 2003

HAMBURG – Flying like an eagle may be the motto of ski-jumping, but being as light as a bird does not necessarily help.

Anorexia is the forbidden word which surfaced once again this week – at least within the German jumping scene.

Frank Loeffler started the latest discussion when he claimed in an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine that he was thrown out of the A-team because he refused to lose weight.

On Wednesday, former coach Reinhard Hess admitted that superstar Sven Hannawald was very close to being anorexic a few years ago.

The Bild daily printed a list with the athletes’ flight weight and doctors engaged in a dispute whether all this was healthy or not.

However, the fact that Hannawald was also close to the illness will grip the broader public rather than Loeffler’s accusations.

Hess said that Hannawald had been a “borderline” case in 1999 and 2000 before getting his act together and rising to stardom with an unprecedented Grand Slam of victories at the 2002 Four Hills Tour.

“At the time he was no factor in the world elite because he fell for the fatal vision: light soars far, even lighter soars even further,” Hess told Bild.

“We talked a lot with him,” added Hess. “This led to a different strategy and a higher weight class.”

Bild said that the 1.85 metres tall Hannawald now weighs 63 kilos. It also listed other athletes such as Polish two-time world champion Adam Malysz (1.69m, 53kg) and the winner of the last World Cup event, Tami Kiuru of Finland (1.83m, 59kg).

Hess insisted that “no athlete is forced to lose weight” and that the German federation as well as the ruling body FIS were well aware of the problem.

Loeffler had different ideas at least as far as the DSV was concerned.

“I was supposed to lose four kilos, from 72 to 68 kilos. But I could not meet this requirement. I have a letter from the DSV which confirms that I was thrown out because of my weight,” he said.

DSV officials said that the weight was the number 1 factor, but that Loeffler was suspended for other reasons as well.

Wilfried Kindermann, chief doctor of the German Olympic team, said that light weight did not lead automatically to anorexia.

“Reaching the perfect weight in a certain sport does not necessarily lead to anorexia. One has to determine whether the athlete has little or too little weight.

“Light weight can lead to well-being and extremely good performances. Too little weight leads to deficits and deficiency symptoms,” said Kindermann.

Hess, meanwhile, said he had no doubt that ski-jumpers will in the future continue to struggle with finding the right balance between light and too light weight.

“It can always happen again when fame and a lot of money are involved. Athletes will always go to the limit, but there should be no slips,” Hess said.

Subject: German news