As the Rio Olympics approaches all eyes are on the British athletes. Following triumphs at the London 2012 games, the pressure is on to repeat this success.
This is certainly true for sisters Becky, 24, & Ellie Downie, aged just 16. The two artistic gymnasts who compete for Great Britain on the international stage are hoping for a place on the Olympic team.
We caught up with the girls to ask them about life as a professional athlete, the hard work involved and their hopes for the future.
How did you first get into Gymnastics?
Becky: I started when I was 7, tagging along with a friend who had already started. I saw her doing flips in the playground and wanted to be able to join in!
Ellie: By the time I was 4 Becky had been doing gymnastics for a few years and was becoming very successful, so my mum had to take me along to training each day. To keep me occupied she put me in pre-school classes and I’ve never looked back!
To get to the position you are in now must have taken a lot of training; tell us a bit about your average week.
Becky: Our average training week is full on. We train each apparatus every day, quite often twice a day, with extra cardio and conditioning sessions thrown in there too. I’m obviously a little older than Ellie, and so have to take extra care of body, so I make time for swimming once a week to give my legs a break from the impact.
Ellie: As I am an all-around gymnast, most of my training scheduled is made up of each apparatus and not so much cardio.
You must have had to make sacrifices for this; do you ever feel you have missed out on anything?
Ellie: We regularly make sacrifices, however we’ve both had opportunities that many other girls our age will never have, so I don’t feel that missing out on things even comes into the equation. It’s a choice we’ve both made, and there have been so many rewards and fantastic occasions that it’s all worthwhile.
Your sport has taken you across the world; where are some of your favourite places?
Ellie: We recently went to Rio as part of a British Team visit to train with the Brazilian team. That was incredible. It was really cool to see the Olympic Park and the Athlete Village in their near completion states. It was also a great opportunity to train in the arena where the gymnastics will be held, and try out all the equipment. Outside of training we also got to visit some of the tourist hotspots, like Christ the Redeemer which was awesome!
Becky: My first Olympic Games was in Beijing which was an amazing place to visit. We got a small insight into the culture over there.
What is it like with both of you competing in the same sport? Is there ever any rivalry?
Becky: Of course there is rivalry in that we are both aiming to qualify for the British Team for Rio, so in that instance we are competing against each other for a spot on the team. However, our strengths lie in different apparatus, so we’re fortunate in that we can always cheer each other on while the other competes. Even if we did compete against each other, we only ever want the best for one another, so there is never any bitterness or resentment between us.
Gymnasts often get injuries – how do you deal with this?
Becky: Injuries are probably the hardest aspect of sport for any athlete to deal with. It is very tough physically, but probably more so mentally. The most important thing I try to remember is not to find fault in my own ability, but to quickly look for the right route forward and keep looking ahead.
Ellie: We’ve both had our fair share of injuries, but I’m very fortunate in that I have seen and witnessed everything that Becky has gone through, so have been able to learn from her mistakes as well as my own.
What are your feelings in the run-up to the Rio Olympic Games
Becky: We’re both still waiting on selection, and are currently fighting out for our spot in the team. The British women’s team is so incredibly strong, so if we are lucky enough to make it, it will be such a great team to be a part of.
Many girls may want to get into gymnastics. Have you got any tips for them?
Becky: There are so many different gymnastic disciplines to get into, which makes it so fun. We both do artistic gymnastics but there is such a wide range including tumbling, trampoline, rhythmic etc.
Tips for getting involved are really just look for the discipline that best suits you, head to the British Gymnastics website to get involved and find a local club suited to you!
Ellie: For girls who want to get involved I would just say it’s such a unique sport to get into, such as the skills you learn, and there are so many different types of gymnastics, it doesn’t have to be artistic.
To follow the girls head to doubledownies.com