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Becky Downie: 'It took so much just to get to Japan... but I have no regrets about chasing my dream'

·4-min read
Becky Downie 'has no regrets' after failing to reach World Championship final - GETTY IMAGES
Becky Downie 'has no regrets' after failing to reach World Championship final - GETTY IMAGES

Becky Downie has "no regrets" after failing to qualify for the World Championships finals, insisting she still has more to accomplish in gymnastics despite the most turbulent 18 months of her career.

Competing at her first major event since 2019, and representing Great Britain for the first time since her shock omission from the Tokyo Olympic squad earlier this summer, Downie was unable to draw on the experience that saw her win a world silver medal two years ago.

She finished outside the eight final spots for the balance beam and uneven bars, placing 11th overall in both of the apparatus qualifying events. But the veteran gymnast struck a positive tone afterwards, referring to a year which saw her cope not only with Olympic disappointment, but also the heartbreak of her brother Josh's tragic death in May.

"I don’t have the words myself and there is still so much I need to try and process about this year but I have absolutely no regrets fighting through it all and continuing to chase my dream," Downie, 29, said. "Being back on the world stage I felt at home, almost like I’d never left. Performing how I did has filled me with confidence to keep trusting myself.

"I’ve never been so ready to take a step back but there is still so much I want to accomplish and as a great friend quoted me yesterday, 'This is just the beginning of the final chapters.'"

Downie has been a vocal critic of British Gymnastics in the past year, as one of the only active gymnasts to speak out on abuse in the sport last summer, and described being "made to feel not welcome" within the national team setup at Lilleshall thereafter.

Following her qualification session on Monday, she described getting to the World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan, as an achievement in itself.

"People don't understand how much it's taken just to get to Japan," said Downie. "I just feel really, really burnt out. I wanted to come and compete for myself. I've worked for two years and I've not had a chance to show any of it. A lot of people have said it's like a redemption competition for me, but I just wanted to come and compete."

It is the first time in 25 years that the World Championships have been held during an Olympic year and, as a result, many major names - including Simone Biles - were missing from the line-ups.

Meanwhile Britons Georgia-Mae Fenton and Ruby Stacey qualified for the all-around final, placing 16th and 17th respectively of 24 gymnasts who progressed from qualifying.

Downie proves her resilience after a year of heartache

Analysis by Molly McElwee

Becky Downie's result at the World Championships, while disappointing, cannot be hugely surprising considering the kind of preparations she had this year - especially after her family was devastated by the death of her brother Josh, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest aged just 24 in May.

That heartbreaking news came the night before the British Olympic trials. When Downie was later not selected for Tokyo - despite being in what she called the "form of her life" - she pointed to the preceding months of disharmony between herself and British Gymnastics.

Downie and her sister Ellie both alleged last summer that they had suffered abusive environments during their time in the sport, and called on the organisation to do better by gymnasts.

"From my side, I'm not going to be feeling comfortable with the decisions that were made," she said on Monday of her Olympic omission. "I had to make a decision whether I ended my career or I wanted to carry on."

She decided to carry on. But watching on from home in August, Downie saw a British team of debutants win a bronze medal in the team event, while she was forced to reimagine her season and peak in October for the World Championships instead - no easy task. It is no wonder she described feeling "burnt out".

Despite the result in Japan this week, and a year of heartache, Downie's resilience has not run out yet.

According to her latest Instagram post this morning, she is keen to keep writing her story in the sport and, while Paris 2023 remains a way away, the 29-year-old could compete for a spot on Team England's Commonwealth Games squad for next summer in Birmingham.

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