Nottingham swimmer who was so weak she damaged bones by walking, helps others with mental health

  • Dan Salisbury-Jones went to meet swimmer Amber Keegan

Swimmer Amber Keegan starved her body so much that despite being an elite athlete, she damaged her bones by simply going for a walk.The 3x British Champion from Nottingham, who has raced at World and European level, now wants to help other female athletes with their mental health.She's co-founded a support group called Athlete Interactions - a service for women athletes who would like support from someone who understands the demands of elite sport.Amber overcame a number of problems in her sporting and personal life and hopes her experience can be a source of hope for others.The lowest point came when she joined friends to watch, not take part in, the Leeds Triathlon.

She told ITV News Central: "I gave myself a bone injury from doing that.

"I'm a fit individual. I'm an athlete, and that's quite terrifying to me that I could hurt myself so much by just walking around because of how little fuel I had, because of how little I was feeding myself."After months of playing what she calls a "sick game" of seeing how few calories she could eat whilst training at her limit, a nutritionist demanded she stop."It terrifies me to think where I would have been if my nutritionist hadn't stepped in."That was the culmination of a difficult 2017 when she felt things were spiralling out of control. With an ill grandad, she was depressed, struggling with uni work and injured in a car crash.She has a complicated relationship with swimming, she says it contributed to her developing an eating disorder but it was also ultimately the reason she got better.She said: "You got kind of bombarded with this messaging from being quite young that athletes should be skinny, athletes should be careful about what they and I think especially as women and young girls, when you're parading around in a swimming costume, as you're hearing those messages, you really internalise it.

"And I hadn't realised quite how much I'd internalised the messaging that skinny was good."Athlete welfare has been in the spotlight for a number of years, yet there is still mistrust between athletes and governing bodies.Amber said: "So one thing that some of the athletes reaching out to us have said they found is even where the governing bodies have actually provided kind of psychologists or psychiatrists for them to talk to.

"There's been kind of hesitation and fears by some of those athletes to reach out because they're not sure if this affects my selection if this affects what the people who want to fund me think about me."And that's kind of a very real reason why people don't access the support that might be available to them. But for us, we're just an athlete to chat to.

"There's no reason why people should feel they can't reach out to us."

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