While their undisputed queen of gymnastics, Beth Tweddle, is looking toward stepping down from the sport, Great Britain has a lot to look forward to from a host of talented young gymnasts working their way up the Espoir and Junior ranks of gymnastics.
One such young talent is first-year elite junior, Ellie Downie. Born in 1999, she is a hopeful for the Rio Olympic Games in 2016. She trains at one of England’s top training centres, Notts Gymnastics Academy, with Claire Starkey and Ian Kime.
Ellie drew international attention to herself in 2010 at age 11 when became the British U12 Champion. This year, at the British Espoir (the level before Junior Elite) Championships in June she won bars and vault and placed second on floor and in the all around.
If Ellie’s last name is familiar it is because she is the little sister of well-known British senior elite gymnast Rebecca Downie, a member of World, European and Olympic teams for Great Britain. For Ellie, having a sister in the sport certainly has its benefits.
“She is very encouraging and always helps me in the gym if the coach is busy with someone else.” Ellie says. ”She will help me and give me tips, because she has been through it all before.”
The energetic young Ellie who hates “sitting about”, was put into a gymnastics when she was three, alongside her sister, who was seven years old when she started. Since then, she has never looked back.
The fact that she could be a contender in this sport, however, was something of an awakening for Ellie.
“My best memory has to be becoming British Champion at level four (9 years old) because it was such a surprise”, she said. “Because I was only young I didn’t really know I had the potential of becoming a good gymnast. Also I didn’t know what level I was at in my age group because I had never really done many competitions with people from different regions in my age group.”
Ellie believes her biggest strength is her power, helped by her naturally springy legs and strength. These are certainly helpful on her favorite apparatus, floor.
“I love doing big exciting tumbles. I also love dancing and floor is one of my special apparatus because I don’t find it too difficult either, so I really enjoy it,” Ellie says.
And Ellie can certainly produce the exciting tumbles, opening her floor routine with a sky-high tucked double Arabian connected to a stag leap. This is followed by a 2.5 twist, punch front to split jump, a double twist to straddle jump and a double tuck to close.
Watch her on floor at the British Championships;
Vault is another great event for Ellie, evidenced by her high, clean Yurchenko full this year at the British Championships.
Although she became British Espoir Champion on the event, uneven bars do not come as naturally for the young gymnast.
“I think bars is one of my weakest pieces because I tend to pick up skills on floor, vault and beam very quickly. Whereas bars just takes a little bit longer for skills to click and to become familiar.”
It is no surprise that the international elite gymnast Ellie most admires is Aly Raisman, who shares these qualities of strength and power. Ellie says:
“I absolutely love her floor routine. Her tumbles are the highest tumbles and most original I have ever seen- and she is the 2012 Olympic floor champion.”
Ellie certainly has her own big future ahead of her in gymnastics. That hasn’t stopped her thinking about what she might do in her future beyond elite competition, either. Sport will still remain a very important part of her life, it seems.
“I would like to try another sport (running) and try and aim for an Olympics in that sport. But after that i would like to be a gymnastics coach or a physiotherapist in sport.” Ellie says.
Some quick questions with Ellie.
How would you describe yourself in five words?
Bubbly, loud, outgoing, crazy, supportive.
How do you think your coaches would describe you in five words?
Hard working, perfectionist, friendly, loud, caring.
What do you like to do in your time off?
I enjoy the company of my family and friends, I also like going to the cinema, theme parks, shopping, chilling, and I always have to be doing something. I hate sitting about.
Favorite tv show: Victorious
Favourite band/singer: Nicki Minaj and The wanted
Favourite food: chocolate or Chinese
Favourite gymnast: Alexandra Raisman
Favourite subject in school: English/Food tech
We wish Ellie a big bright future!
Article: Brigid McCarthy
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