EEven for the few competitors who progress smoothly throughout their careers, gymnastics is a sport of unfathomable difficulty. It takes a toll on the muscles and joints, it takes a singular focus to be successful and because there are so few great meetings, four years of unbridled discipline can be undone with an error in judgment of a millimeter or less.
For the past 15 years, even by the standards of most gymnasts, Becky Downie has not had it easy. Since her debut in 2006, when she started out as a versatile gymnast, she has established herself as one of the top performers on uneven bars.
Over the years, she’s combined huge elements of liberation, including a skill named after her, with solid form and quick connections. She’s also incredibly adaptable: Downie has sailed through five different codes of stitches during her career, meaning she has had to constantly adapt her routines in a now unrecognizable event since 2006 and keeps one of the routines. most difficult in the world.
For much of that time, her presence on the biggest stages often ended in disappointment. She was a talented uneven bars worker for a time, but during the first half of her career she sometimes struggled to perform in bigger events and suffered serious injuries at the most inopportune times. In a moment that would define her career and goals, she was not selected for London 2012.
Resilience has always closely accompanied devastation for Downie. After the frustration of missing an Olympics at home, she returned with renewed fire and a determination to prove her worth. She won uneven bars at the European Championships in 2014 and again two years later.
Between those two victories there were many notable medals and achievements, including leading his team to a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships.
In 2019, she retooled to fight with the world. She finished with a long-awaited silver medal, her first individual world medal.
As Downie prepared for the Olympic Trials this year, and potentially the end of her career at 29, she was struck by life-changing news. In May, his brother, Josh, died playing cricket. Downie heard the news on the eve of her last Olympic try in Cardiff and she returned home to her family.
Just days after her bereavement, Downie made the decision to resume training and complete the journey she had started. After negotiating with British Gymnastics, Downie completed her second try on her own in an empty gym. After a routine, she stalled her descent then burst into tears.
Despite being the world silver medalist, a clear individual medal hopeful and part of the top performing squad based on the results of the Olympic trials, Downie was not chosen. Outrage followed from fans, the media and from herself and her sister, Ellie, who questioned whether the couple had recently spoken out against British Gymnastics officials had anything to do with the omission.
British Gymnastics said the decision was due to prioritizing the team competition in Tokyo, which only added insult to injury. It called into question Downie’s need to return to complete the process during a bereavement if it already didn’t fit their parameters – their inability to communicate much sooner cost him the chance to seek an individual place in Tokyo.
After all this pain, Downie continued. Although the Games were moved to this year, the date for the World Championships in Kitakyushu, Japan remained two months later, giving Downie and others who did not fulfill their Olympic dreams another chance. .
She continued to train, even during the Olympics, and engaged in Kitakyushu.
After Friday’s podium practice, where she stumbled upon her eponymous loosening skill in a otherwise well executed routine, she told Gymnastic, “It’s been a very difficult process just to get here. Even last week it was like, “Is Becky going to take a plane?” sort of thing. So I’m happy to have succeeded. “
It won’t be the same, not even in other world championships. Many of the top gymnasts who competed in Tokyo chose not to make themselves available due to the need to fully recover, mentally and physically. The relatively exhausted field means a huge opportunity for elite athletes like Downie, but also that victory will not have the shine of a typical world championship, with all the top gymnasts around.
But none of this seems to matter to Downie. She’s here to give the best of herself and try to win a medal, but more important and moving than mere results is her resilience through such a difficult time in her life.
It was already a tough old career even before this spring and the past few months have been unimaginable, but she knows what she wants and is here again trying to achieve her goals.