LARA Campana was wasting away and barely strong enough to pick up a volleyball.
After quickly losing three stone – and in the grips of anorexia – the Italian-born sports enthusiast was potentially facing a fight for her life.
But she was able to shake off her demons and has banished the slimming disease for good after pouring her efforts into a huge drive to help the Edinburgh volleyball team she coaches triumph.
And, unusually, she’s a woman in a man’s world having secured silverware for the Edinburgh Jets men’s team for the first time in 35 years.
She believes the club was her salvation as she fought her way back to recovery, the successful Scottish League title challenge providing her with the drive and determination to climb out of the abyss.
“I had always been an athlete and played sport, and coping with the fact that your body was not supporting you any more and your mind was not able to get over that was not easy,” she said.
Ms Campana, 30, who works as a research scientist at the Royal Infirmary, was so weak she could not even serve the ball. Forced to stop playing the sport she loves, she turned her attention to coaching.
She said: “ I started by helping with the recreational team and I found that I couldn’t even serve underarm. It was very sad for me, very frustrating.”
But of the league run, she said: “This gave me an aim – I had to be fit for that. To have my life back, I wanted to be back in volleyball and playing and coaching fully.”
Ms Campana is aware she attracts second glances when she walks on to a volleyball court to prepare for a match, given how rare it is for a woman to be on the coaching staff in the tough sport.
But player-coach Martyn Johnstone is said to be delighted with his assistant and has been quick to acknowledge Lara’s contribution to the Jets’ historic title triumph.
But Ms Campana believes she’s the one who owes a debt to the team.
Indeed, to further help, she has now set her sights on helping the team reach the Scottish Cup and play-offs with hopes of winning the treble.
She added: “It’s my focus for now. I’d also like to get back on court as a player.”
Ms Campana started playing when she was ten and went on to play for the University of Milan where she studied. She began her coaching career teaching mini-volleyball to girls at P1-P3 level, then a local men’s team.
She moved to the Capital in January last year but, before she left home, she was keen to find a volleyball club to pursue her great love.
“I literally found Jets before I found my home in Scotland. I searched for volleyball clubs in Edinburgh when I was in Italy and it was the most appealing website. I decided to contact them to see if they had a spot for me and it was like a family when I got here. Immediately, I was welcomed in and I found the level was very good and so I was pleased to be here.”
Chief coach Mr Johnstone said she has become part of something that will long live in the memory of supporters
He said: “To be the first team in Jets’ history to lift the men’s Division One trophy is outstanding and a huge thanks must go to Lara who has come in and done fantastic work.”
Autumn Childs, club communication officer, said: “She has that drive and determination as a coach that I’m sure helped her get through her illness.”
HUNDREDS TREATED FOR EATING CONDITION
NEARLY 300 people have been admitted to hospitals across Lothian suffering from anorexia since 2008, resulting in seven deaths.
The eating disorder and mental health condition can be life threatening as people with it try to keep their weight as low as possible, usually by restricting the amount of food they eat.
They often have a distorted image of themselves, thinking that they are fat when they are not.
A further 82 people were taken to hospital over the same period suffering from other eating disorders such as bulimia where sufferers tend to binge eat and then purge the food from their body by making themselves sick or using laxatives.