'It's sad it's come to this': Gymnast Ellie Downie reflects on quitting sport at 23

  • ITV News Central Sports Correspondent Dan Salisbury-Jones spoke to Ellie Downie as she retires from professional gymnastics.

At her best, Ellie Downie says gymnastics made her feel "on top of the world".

But now, at just 23, she's announced she's quitting the sport to protect her mental health.

Ellie was a trailblazing gymnast, winning Britain's first ever all-around medal at the European Championships; one of 12 medals she won at continental and world level.

The Nottingham athlete was also one of those who spoke up about the treatment of gymnasts within the sport. The lack of support she's had since doing that, is one of the reasons she's quit.

Ellie said: "Yeah, it's sad that it's kind of come to this. I didn't think it really would. But ultimately, they were having such an impact on my mental health.

"I knew I just needed to be happy and find my happiness again. And then they were taking that away from me."

She believes she's been overlooked for selection since she and her sister Becky revealed their own experiences.

Becky and sister Ellie Downie have previously spoken out about abuse within British gymnastics. Credit: PA Images

"The repercussions were quite obvious," she said.

"Even though people told me they didn't have a problem with it, actions speak louder than words. And the actions I received, weren't good.

"It was almost being ignored or and kind of just making it clear that they didn't want me on a team."

An email has now emerged from the coach of the women's artistic team reflecting on their success at the recent World Championships.

In it, David Kenwright wrote: "I have always believed success is the best revenge for all the knocks, setbacks, disappointments, the attacks on professional and personal integrity, the naysayers and nonbelievers. The one simple fact remains we overcame it all."

The performance director, Tracy Whittaker Smith, responded saying: "This is not the language we would like anyone to be using.

"Following a serious review into past practice within gymnastics, which resulted in serious cases of abuse, I must make it clear that we will forever be grateful to those who came forward to share their experiences."

Gymnast Ellie Downie in 2019. Credit: PA Images

But one simple fact does remain: that coach is still working within the elite set-up and Ellie Downie is not.

"Ultimately, my mental health wasn't doing well," she continued. "And yeah, I know I needed to take a step back and am always going to stop because I knew he wasn't going to not be in charge of the program."

British Gymnastics put a long statement on its website paying tribute to Ellie's excellent career.

In it, it also addressed Kenwright's email: "A subsequent discipline and education process took place and this is being monitored as an ongoing process."

Ellie is going to carry on coaching youngsters at her gym in Nottingham but she joins a long list of gymnasts who've quit competing because of their treatment. This time though, British Gymnastics have lost one of their biggest stars.

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