AN OLYMPIC fencer has spoken out about the risks of eating disorders in competitive sports as she prepares to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.

Lenora Mackinnon, from Basingstoke, said she makes an effort not to calorie-count after witnessing so many athletes suffering with the disorder throughout her career.

Speaking to the Gazette, she said: “Eating disorders can become so obsessive and I’ve seen so many athletes go through it, it’s really awful to see.”

The sportswoman has been competing from the age of seven as part of the after school club activities. Over the years, she said she has sadly seen many athletes battling disorders.

Lenora, who made her Olympic debut for Team Canada at Rio in 2016, flew back from Paris on Friday morning to take part in the Gazette-sponsored Basingstoke Sports Awards to support fellow athletes.

A 2004 study of distance runners in the UK found that of the 184 female athletes, 16 per cent (29) had an eating disorder.

She added: “Luckily, fencing isn’t one of those sports that works in weight categories unlike gymnastics and boxing.

“I think it’s such a competitive industry that you can get lost in it at times but taking a step back from it is never a bad thing.”

Some of the high risk sports are swimming, running, gymnastics, diving, synchronised swimming, wrestling, Judo and lightweight rowing.

The 25-year-old athlete said while she follows a diet, there is room for the occasional glass of wine. She said: “I do make an effort to eat healthily and watch what I eat but really my diet is tailored to me by my nutritionist. He advises against calorie counting, it’s not a healthy mindset for anyone to be in.”

The main eating disorders are:

n anorexia, which is characterised as severe food restriction with an extreme fear of weight gain

n bulimia, which is characterised as binging on food and then purging either self-induced vomiting, extreme exercise or laxative use out of guilt

n binge-eating, which is consuming large amounts of food without purging and feeling shameful afterwards.

n If you think that you might have an eating disorder or know someone who might then contact your GP or call an eating disorder charity, Beat on 0808801077.