Lightweight women's double world champion Zoë McBride has opened up on the shock realities that drove her to announce her retirement from rowing, just months ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old was set to compete at the upcoming Olympics as one of New Zealand's favourites for a gold medal after claiming the world title along with double sculls teammate Jackie Kiddle in 2019.
Speaking to Newstalk ZB, McBride revealed she began contemplating her career after suffering a stress fracture to her leg last year.
Months of rehab took a toll on both her mental health before the challenges of getting back down below 59 kilograms to meet the minimum lightweight criteria saw her develop an eating disorder and an erratic menstrual cycle.
"That was a massive wake-up call," she said.
"I've been very injured being a lightweight I've had to manipulate my body in ways that looking back on it now, I'm not ok with in order to get to weight.
"Since then a massive priority of mine has been health ... in order for me to be in a position to get back down to weight to race is too much of an ask on my mental health and also my physical health.
"I don't want to put myself in a position where I'm not ok but still in the boat."
Although having trained extensively over the past few years for the Tokyo Games, McBride said she was confident she would never regret her decision.
"I don't expect a lot of people to understand or for people to see it from my point of view but I know over the years, obviously the work that I've put in, it's been a massive goal of mine to go to the Olympics but to do it at the sacrifice of myself is not worth it," she said.
"The past year and a half has made me realise that although I've done some amazing things, at the end of the day I'm the one who has to live with myself and in my body and this decision is for me"
McBride won three world titles in her career with back-to-back successes in the light-weight single sculls in 2015 and 2016. She then claimed a silver in the double sculls with Kiddle before the duo won the world title in Ottensheim, Austria in 2019.
She said the conversation with Kiddle was an emotional one.
"It's obviously a very hard conversation to have," she said. "But at the end of the day, we're a team and we support each other, we always have and we both want what's best for each other.
"You want to race and be with a partner who is in a really good position to be able to do it and if they have to sacrifice something in order to be there, it's not worth it."
Kiddle is set to continue training at Lake Karapiro as part of Rowing NZ's High-Performance Programme.
Meanwhile, McBride will remain based in Cambridge to pursue her career in marketing with a focus on women's health.