UK gymnast Downie returns 'burnt out' but defiant after Olympic heartbreak

Kitakyushu (Japan) (AFP) –

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Becky Downie said that she was "burnt out" but proud after competing at the world championships in Japan on Monday, following a turbulent year for the British gymnast that included the death of her brother.

The 29-year-old Downie was controversially omitted from Britain's Tokyo Olympic team this summer, with some wondering if she was being punished for speaking out about bullying.

Her non-selection came after her brother had died suddenly playing cricket on the eve of her final trial for the team in May.

Downie eventually appeared in a rescheduled trial on her own in an empty venue, breaking down in tears after finishing one routine.

But she made a defiant return to action in Kitakyushu in western Japan, scoring 14.000 in a clean uneven bars routine.

"People don't understand how much it's taken just to get to Japan," said Downie, the 2019 uneven bars world silver medallist.

"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."

Downie, who also competed on the balance beam, scoring 13.333, added that she was "really, really proud" despite feeling "mentally tired".

"Consistency has been up and down -- as well as emotions," she said.

- 'Too damn good' -

Downie and her sister Ellie, also an elite gymnast, spoke out about "an environment of fear and mental abuse" in British gymnastics in July 2020.

They released a statement saying they had experienced a litany of historic bullying and abuse, including a focus on weight which Ellie said had "left deep scars which will never be healed".

Becky said it "wasn't easy" to rejoin the British team for the trip to Japan, but she had "worked too hard" and was "too damn good to give it up".

"From my side, I'm not going to be feeling comfortable with the decisions that were made," she said of her Olympic heartbreak.

"Again, I had to make a decision whether I ended my career or I wanted to carry on."

The world championships are taking place in the same year as the Olympics for the first time in 25 years.

The competition is missing a host of the sport's top names, including American superstar Simone Biles and Tokyo Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee.

Downie said she believes in her ability but has more expectations once she has had "a bit of a break and time to refresh" at the end of a rollercoaster year.

"A lot of people have said it's like a redemption competition for me, but I just wanted to come and compete," she said.

"I've never been so burnt out in my whole life coming into a major championships."