Tokyo Olympics: Gymnast Becky Downie misses out on Games selection

Downie made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Games

Gymnast Becky Downie says she “doesn’t have the words” to describe her feelings after missing out on being selected for the UK Olympic team.

But despite her good results, she is not part of the team for Tokyo.

Alice Kinsella, 20, twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova, 16, and Amelie Morgan, 18, were selected.

“I’m not exactly sure where to start,” said Downie, silver medalist on the world’s uneven bars Twitterexternal link.

“Since I was a little girl, it has always been my dream to win an Olympic medal.

“I don’t have the words to describe how it feels now, not even being able to try.

“Last year was incredibly difficult, but this last month was unimaginable.”

The two-time Olympian added, “I’m not sure what’s going to happen in terms of my future, but all I know is that I still love the sport and feel in the shape of my life.

“I know I don’t want to retire like this.”

In 2020, Downie and her younger sister Ellie were among a number of British gymnasts who spoke out about abusive behavior in training the sport.

James Thomas, the performance director of British Gymnastics, said the Tokyo team was selected on “gymnastic merit and nothing else”.

Downie said, “Now is not the time, but I have so many questions.”

Who is on the Tokyo team?

Kinsella is the most veteran member of the team to win the European Beam title in 2019 after winning the Commonwealth title the previous year. She also made it into the top 12 at the 2019 World Championships.

Jessica Gadirova made an unforgettable senior debut at the recent European Championships in Basel. She won gold on the floor, silver in the jump and bronze in the all-around competition, while Jennifer made history with medals at the first Junior World Championship in 2019.

Morgan was also successful at the European Championships in Switzerland and won bronze on the uneven bars.

“With such a strong talent pool in the UK and only four spots available, choosing was a tough one,” said Thomas.

“We believe the selected team has great potential to compete with the world’s best, and every single gymnast has the ability to excel in all-around and equipment competitions.”

What about Becky Downie?

It goes without saying that British Gymnastics wanted to focus on winning a team medal rather than bringing a specialist to the games.

An appeal by Downie’s legal department against her omission was denied last Friday.

Downie’s younger sister Ellie, 21, the 2019 world bronze medalist in the vault, had already decided to take a break from the sport after the sudden death of her brother, a talented cricketer.

Becky Downie made her UK debut in 2006 and has won a total of 14 senior medals over the course of her career. She represented her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and again at the Rio Games in 2016.

The former European champion, who underwent ankle surgery in 2018, had postponed her resignation for a final attempt at her first Olympic medal, believing her routine was good enough to win gold.

Last year the Downies said that abusive behavior was “rooted” in gymnastics training and “completely normalized”.

But British Gymnastics’ Thomas defended the decision not to pick Becky Downie.

“There has been no athlete seen in a different light in the past 12 months, which affected the selection,” he said.

“I am very confident that the team has been considered based on their gymnastic merits and nothing else.

“Regarding Becky and the additional opportunity we tragically gave her, we worked with Becky to provide that opportunity, and it was not a forced opportunity.

“At this point in time we hadn’t decided on that [prioritisation] from the team [event] because that was the responsibility of the committee at the time of nomination.

“We felt it was the right thing to do, given the circumstances – to allow Becky to end her probationary period and then see her performance with all the other gymnasts.”

Activists criticize Downie’s decision

Commenting on her sister’s omission from the Tokyo squad, Ellie tweeted, “I’d say it’s a shock, but after we’ve been treated this year, it’s not really.”

The decision not to accept Downie has been criticized by the Gymnasts for Change group, which called for reforms and better welfare for athletes in the sport.

Downie’s non-selection is a “dire warning to those who may speak out in the future.”

“Becky Downie is in great shape and by far one of the most talented gymnasts of her generation,” it said in a statement. “The decision to expel her from the Tokyo team is a complete shock.

“As a veteran of two Olympic teams and the captain of Rio and World Cup squads, it is incomprehensible why the pole specialist was dropped in a year in which she reached a 6.8 SV [start value] while training in one of the most difficult routines in the world. “


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