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Tokyo Olympics: Gymnast Becky Downie misses out on Games selection

Downie made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Games in Beijing

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

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

Alice Kinsella, 20, 16-year-old twins Jennifer and Jessica Gadirova and Amelie Morgan, 18, have been selected.

“I’m not entirely sure where to begin,” world uneven bars silver medallist Downie said on Twitter.external-link

“Ever since I was a little girl, winning an Olympic medal has always been my dream.

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

“This past year has been incredibly difficult, but this last month has been unimaginable.”

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

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

In 2020, Downie and her younger sister Ellie were among a number of British gymnasts to speak out about abusive behaviour in the sport’s training.

James Thomas, British Gymnastics’ performance director, said the Tokyo team had been selected on “gymnastic merits 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 experienced member of the team having won the European beam title in 2019 after winning the Commonwealth title the previous year. She also finished inside the top 12 at the 2019 World Championships.

Jessica Gadirova had a senior debut to remember at the recent European Championships in Basel, winning gold on the floor, silver on the vault and bronze in the all-around while Jennifer made history in 2019 by winning a medal at the first ever Junior World Championships.

Morgan also had success at the Europeans in Switzerland, winning bronze in the uneven bars.

“With such a strong pool of talent in Great Britain and only four places available the selection meant making difficult decisions,” said Thomas.

“We feel the team selected has great potential to contend amongst the world’s best and individually each gymnast has the ability to excel in the all-around and apparatus competitions.”

What about Becky Downie?

It is understood British Gymnastics wanted to focus on winning a team medal, rather than take a specialist to the Games.

An appeal from Downie’s legal team against her omission was rejected last Friday.

Downie’s younger sister Ellie, 21, the 2019 world bronze medallist in the vault, had already made the decision to take time out from the sport after the sudden death of their brother, a talented cricketer.

Becky Downie made her Great Britain debut in 2006 and has won a total of 14 senior medals across her career, representing her country at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and again at the Rio Games in 2016.

The former European champion, who underwent ankle surgery in 2018, had delayed her retirement for one last attempt at her first Olympic medal, believing her routine was good enough to win gold.

Last year, the Downies said abusive behaviour in gymnastics training became “ingrained” and “completely normalised”.

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

“There is no athlete who was viewed in any other light around speaking out over the last 12 months that impacted on selection,” he said.

“I’m very confident the team were considered on their gymnastic merits and nothing else.

“In terms of Becky and the additional opportunity we put on for her due to tragic circumstances, we worked with Becky to offer that opportunity, and it was not a forced opportunity.

“At that point we hadn’t decided on the [prioritisation] of the team [event] because that was for the panel to do at the point of nomination.

“We felt that was the right thing to do in the circumstances – to allow Becky to finish her trial opportunity and then to consider her performances alongside all the other gymnasts.”

Campaigners criticise Downie decision

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

The decision not to include Downie has been criticised by the group Gymnasts for Change, who have been calling for reform and better athlete welfare in the sport.

It said Downie’s non-selection served as a “sinister warning to those who might speak out in future”.

“Becky Downie is on world-beating form and easily one of the most talented women’s artistic gymnasts of her generation,” said a statement. “The decision to exclude her from the Tokyo team is a total shock.

“As a veteran of two Olympic teams and the captain of both Rio and World Championships squads, it is incomprehensible why the bars specialist has been dropped in a year she achieved a 6.8 SV [start value] in training in what has been touted as one of the most difficult routines in the world.”

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