London, July 10 (IANS) British World Championship medallist gymnasts Beckie and Ellie Downie said that abuse within gymnastics training in the country is “completely normalised.” Several British gymnasts have recently spoken up about a culture of mental and emotional abuse within the sport.
The sisters released a joint statement on their respective social media handles in which they said that they were previously afraid to speak out and didn’t realise “how wrong it was at the time.”
“While exact experiences obviously vary, we both recognise the environment of fear and mental abuse those before us have described so bravely,” they said.
“For too long, the health and wellbeing of young girls has been of secondary importance to a dated, cruel, and – we’d argue – often ineffective culture within women’s gymnastics training.”
The siblings expressed their own personal views within the statement. 20-year-old Ellie said that she has been made to feel “ashamed” of her weight for almost all of her career, and to this day “still hides food.”
“This never-ending focus on my weight has left deep scars which will never be healed, I suspect. After a deep emotional battle, I’ve finally found a place to be happy with my body outside of the gym, but I’ll always feel overweight whenever I’m in a gymnastics setting,” she said.
“We’ve seen too many girls descend into eating disorders and mental health problems because of this, and while this is changing, there is still a culture of less is best.”
28-year-old Becky said that she has only recently felt strong enough to speak up.
“We’re speaking out now, just a year before the peak of our sport, the Olympic Games, because we have a duty to the wellbeing of the young children coming into gymnastics, and their safety is more important than any Olympic medal.”