Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'

The first swimmer to speak publicly about abusive practices in the sport said she was proud of the "brave" athletes who had shared their stories to change a culture of fear.

Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'
Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'

Phoebe Lenderyou battled bulimia for five years after extreme criticism and humiliating weigh-ins by coaches.

A review found extreme competitiveness led to an "ongoing and systemic" toxicity at all levels of the sport.

"All I want is for the children of today to love swimming," she said.

Phoebe, a Commonwealth youth gold medallist, said speaking to the BBC in February 2023 about her ordeal had been "daunting and scary".

"It was a very well-known but taboo issue that nobody who I ever swam with had mentioned," she said.

Phoebe, of Newcastle, was contacted by more than 100 swimmers following the article who shared their own stories, as well as parents and coaches.

Swim England later apologised to those who had endured bad experiences and commissioned the independent review.

Its damning conclusions found a "performance first" attitude prevalent throughout the sport was put above all else, regardless of whether swimmers were suffering physically or mentally.

Earlier this week double Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington said she had witnessed abusive practices and that she had been lucky to have a coach who "saw me as a human being first".

Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'
Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'

More than 1,000 swimmers, parents, coaches and volunteers took part in the research, with another 3,500 completing a survey.

"I'm so proud of how brave everyone is who also shared their stories and talked about how they feel," said Phoebe.

"And overwhelmed, but also grateful for all the private messages I've had from people sharing their experiences and thanking me for talking about it."

After Phoebe and others spoke out about suffering eating disorders and disordered eating, Swim England banned the weighing of children.

The review found bullying was rife, by coaches and other swimmers, and said people were fearful of speaking out about bad practice for fear of being ostracised from the sport.

Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'
Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'

Swim England's chairperson Richard Hookway said the organisation was "committed to change" and would "act on the findings, which we fully accept".

Phoebe said she thought it was "amazing" to see change had already taken place and that the whole industry needed to learn from the review's findings.

"I just want it so that when people get recognised for having a talent, they are not negatively scrutinised or made to constantly doubt themselves or feel like they are doing something wrong," she said.

"I want people to enjoy their whole swimming career, no matter where it takes them - and not be left with any of the negative scars from it like I was, and also like quite a lot of my team mates were."

She added: "I started swimming in an amazing environment and I absolutely loved the competitiveness of it, I loved my friends and I loved the coaches - so I want people to have that kind of feeling about swimming for their whole career."

How the abuse scandal unfolded

Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'
Phoebe Lenderyou: 'I'm proud swimmers dared to speak up over abuse'

February 2022 - Swimmers who trained with elite club Ellesmere Titans in Shropshire make a string of bullying and abuse allegations - and Swim England shuts the club down

February 2023 - Phoebe Lenderyou becomes the first to go public with her story of suffering bulimia for five years while swimming competitively - it includes an anecdote where swimmers were tested with a chocolate cake and punished for eating it

February 2023 - More than 100 swimmers, parents and coaches contact Phoebe to share their own experiences

March 2023 - Olympic medallist Cassie Patten tells her story of feeling broken by negative comments by coaches and suffering disordered eating - Swim England apologises and vows to change

March 2023 - Swim England is lambasted in the Sport England-commissioned Weston review, which criticises chief executive Jane Nickerson's handling of the closure of Ellesmere Titans and says other complaints were mismanaged

June 2023 - Swim England bans weighing of children following multiple stories of it contributing to anorexia, bulimia and disordered eating

June 2023 - Former elite swimmer Lucy Davis hails the ban as a "great moment in swimming history"

July 2023 - More swimmers come forward to allege mistreatment, this time while at Loughborough University - Emily Crane, Emily Barclay and Carmella Kitching share stories of favouritism, bullying and the so-called Fat Bitch Club, for female swimmers deemed too heavy. The university said it did not "always get things right"

March 2024 - Chief executive Jane Nickerson retires and Andy Salmon, former CEO of British Triathlon takes over

March 2024 - The listening review into the culture within aquatics is published

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