Russian rhythmic gymnast Aleksandra Soldatova opens up on her battle with bulimia as she takes career break

Soldatova concealed her health battles in her quest for gold (PA Images)
Soldatova concealed her health battles in her quest for gold (PA Images)
16:32pm, Sat 15 Feb 2020
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Russian rhythmic gymnast Aleksandra Soldatova has revealed her fight with bulimia and admitted she was once omitted from the team after she passed out an event.

As the 21 year-old announced the news, she said she would be taking time away from the sport.

The four-time world champion, 21, was forced to deny Russian media reports last week that she had been admitted to a Moscow hospital after a suicide attempt.

She revealed that her coaches were aware of her condition, and had strived to get her the help she needed and the support required to fight the eating disorder.

“It’s a frightening illness. When I told [coach] Anna Vyacheslavovna [Diatchenko] I cried, I talked with her for three or four hours." she said.

"I’m grateful to her and Irina Alexandrovna [Viner-Usmanova – president of the Russian Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation], they really supported me.

"I prepared myself for several months before I could tell them that I really needed help," she said.

“I want to tell anyone who is also suffering from bulimia that the hardest part is admitting it… but when I told my trainers, they were a mountain [of support] for me. 

“This story has gone on for two years, I’ve had this affliction," she told TASS.

"It’s very hard for me to speak about it. In addition to sporting issues – fractures, injuries – I’ve had another illness which has constantly affected me.

"It’s impossible to treat bulimia easily... Life was divided between my battle with the illness and this beautiful sport,” she added.

In an interview with The Olympic Channel she spoke of how difficult she found it to accept her illness.

"In the past two years I haven’t spoken with anyone at the [training] base in Novogorsk, I ate alone, went everywhere alone, at the beginning I didn’t even know that there was this kind of illness.

"I didn’t know what was going on with me, even though I understood something wasn’t right."

Her health began to deteriorate rapidly and her body became so fragile that she was forced to miss the 2018 European Championships due to a fracture.

Despite winning individual ribbon and team golds at the 2018 Rhythmic Gymnastics Worlds, she was far from healthy and was twice hospitalised.

She fought through to compete at the 2019 European Championships and managed 'ok' results but was slowly coming to terms with the danger she was in.

After the championships she agreed to go for treatment, but her competitive nature saw her soon return to training.

“Every time when I faced the choice, sport or my health, I always chose sport," she said.

This ultimately led to the turning point in her recovery when she was left out of the Russian team at the World Championships in 2019.

Weak and exhausted, she passed out in a training exercise and medical experts deemed her unfit to compete.

Soldatova has since accepted that her health is more important than her medals and has said she will only compete at the 2020 Women's European Gymnastics Championships in April if she is fully ready and has not yet made a decision about her Olympic hopes.

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