Yesterday (30th July), an item was posted on guardian.co.uk titled ‘Olympic vegetarians: the elite athletes who shun meat’.
‘… Lizzie Armitstead was just 10 years old when she told her parents she wanted to become a vegetarian. Yesterday, she won Great Britain’s first medal of the Olympic Games, taking silver in the gruelling 87-mile road cycling race, no less.
I [freelance writer Adharanand Finn] was brought up as vegetarian from birth and have been a long distance runner for most of my adult life. One of the most common misconceptions I’ve come across is that vegetarians are pallid, gentle creatures who would recoil in a tough sporting arena. Despite the fact I was breaking school records on the track, people still questioned my diet’s ability to make me strong.
I spent six months last year living and training with some of Kenya’s greatest long-distance runners, for my book, Running With the Kenyans. The athletes (from the Rift Valley) were not strictly vegetarian, but ate very little meat, which is usually reserved for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. Although there were occasional non-vegetarian meals served in the athlete training camps, we lived mostly on a diet of rice, beans, ugali (a dough made of maize flour and water) and green vegetables. The list of gold medals the Kenyan athletes have won on the track is almost endless. (On a personal note, I returned home to run a marathon in under three hours.)
However, most nutritionists are still unconvinced of the benefits of a vegetarian diet for elite sportspeople. While it can mean a diet low in saturated fat, which is good, it requires athletes to be more vigilant about their intake of protein, iron and vitamin B12. “It is hard work,” says Linia Patel, a sports nutritionist at the British Dietetic Society. “It can be done, of course, but I take my hat off to those who do it.”
Yet as Armitstead has shown yet again, vegetarians continue to rise to the very top of their sports. She follows a long line of Olympians who have managed to excel without “eating corpses”, as she herself puts it. In honour of her medal, here are a few other great vegetarian Olympians: …
Known as the ‘Seaweed Streak’ because of his vegan diet, Australian swimmer Rose won four Olympic gold medals in the 1956 and 1960 Olympics. He was a vegan from from childhood.
Twice the Olympic 400m hurdles gold medallist, Moses went on one of the most incredible winning streaks in the history of sport when he won 122 successive races between 1977 and 1987, breaking four world records along the way …
Carl Lewis wasn’t a vegetarian when he won four gold medals in Los Angeles in 1984, but turning vegan later in his career only seemed to help. In 1991 he won the 100m at the world championships at the age of 30 in a world record. It was, he has said, his greatest race.
The last British man to win a long-distance gold medal at the Olympics, in 1908 in London, Voigt was a former Guardian writer as well as a dedicated vegetarian …
Although she lost in the quarter finals in her only Olympic appearance in Athens in 2004, Navratilova is one of the greatest tennis players in history, winning 18 Grand Slams, including an incredible nine Wimbledon titles. She is a strong advocate of vegetarianism …’
Read the item in full, view images and add your comment online at www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/jul/30/lizzie-armitstead-vegetarian-athletes-olympics-2012