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Interview: Becky Downie (Great Britain)
(10 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)
As Great Britain's top scorer on three events in the 2007 Worlds team finals, Becky Downie is hoping for greatness at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
Downie at the 2007 Worlds

Downie, who turned 16 on Jan. 24, played a key role in the British women's historical-best seventh-place finish at last fall's World Championships in Stuttgart. She was the team's top scorer on all three events in which she performed: vault, uneven bars and balance beam. (2006 world uneven bars champion Beth Tweddle did not compete in the team finals.) Based on Downie's performances in the qualifications, she came close to making the event finals on vault and uneven bars, as well.

A native of Nottingham, Downie was a member of England's silver medal-winning team at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, where she placed eighth all-around and third on balance beam. Downie was eighth all-around and sixth on floor exercise at the 2006 European Junior Championships in Volos, Greece. Following these achievements, the BBC's East Midlands Today named her Junior Sportswoman of the Year for 2006.

Downie, who also won the British Espoir (Hopes) title in 2004 and 2005, trains with coaches Claire Starkey and Ian Kime in Nottingham.

In this IG Online interview, Downie candidly describes her past success and her plans for continued greatness in the Olympic year of 2008.


IG: Becky, many people were surprised at how well the British team finished at the World Championships in Stuttgart. What do you think were the main reasons for your team's success there?

BD: We had lots of support from our coaches. And we knew the target was top 12. The team all knew we had to just do what we did in training and go steady. Any risks were out. In the training I had some injury issues with my feet, so we decided it was best to keep me off floor because the team needed my vault and beam more than floor. This meant I couldn't get an all-around position, but it was best for the team. The coaches made decisions for the team that worked.

IG: In what ways have you changed or developed as a gymnast since Worlds?

BD: After Worlds - as I mentioned, I've had problems with my feet - I had an operation on both of them. They are better now, but it has been a slow and frustrating recovery. Once they were OK, I had to do loads of rehab and get fit again, then recover old skills. I still have to be careful with them, but (coach) Claire Starkey and the physios (physiotherapists) help me manage a program to avoid any overload.

Downie at the 2007 Worlds
Now that I have seen and competed with the best in the world, I know that it would be possible to make finals. When we came back I just wanted to get going, but Claire had to hold me back so that I could recover from the injury. I haven't changed much; I just want to get out there and do more.

IG: In addition to Claire, who coaches you on what events?

BD: Claire works every event with me and has done so for years. She does all the planning of routines, training schedules and program, conditioning, choreography, etc. She also used to do most of the spotting when I needed it when I was younger.

Ian Kime has also been involved in coaching me for several years, but he is only in the gym part-time. As I've gotten older, he does more spotting for me because I'm the same size as Claire now, but I prefer to do most of my skills alone. I work with Ian if Claire's away, but she leaves me a strict program and I still phone her to check if I need to alter anything on that program, even if she's in another country.

Obviously I work with the national coaches more now, as well. We go to national training once a month, and more when we are close to a major event. My last floor routine was made up by the national choreographer. We have a few other coaches in the gym at Notts (Downie's club) who all work as a team, so lots of coaches have a small input. I know Claire discusses a lot of things with Adi (British team technical director Adrian Stan) and the national coaches, and sometimes they disagree on things, but in the end it's all about what's best for me.

Downie and Starkey at the 2007 Worlds
IG: You are one of the most powerful gymnasts on the British team, with top skills on all four events. How do you manage to pack the tough skills into all four of your routines?

BD: I want to be an all-around gymnast. I know I have strengths and weaknesses, but Claire (pictured with Downie in Stuttgart) always tries to balance my program and make sure all aspects are covered. Over the years my strongest pieces have changed except for vault. I have always been strong on vault, but I found bars hard when I was younger. Now because we have found skills that suit me and planned the routine progressions carefully, I am quite strong on bars. Floor has suffered a bit, because I have had various injury issues last year and couldn't train floor as much as I wanted.

IG: On vault in Stuttgart, you performed a solid double-twisting Yurchenko. Are you planning a new vault or new vaults for 2008, possibly with an eye on the Beijing event final?

BD: We were planning a new one, but because of my feet I just have to recover and correct first. Then I have to secure my second vault.

IG: On bars in Stuttgart, you did a couple impressive combinations (giant 1 1/2, toe-on, Tkatchev; Stalder-full, giant, Ricna). Did you or do you plan to directly connect the Stalder-full with the Ricna in 2008?

BD: On bars both those connections should be in the routine, but I didn't want to take any risks. Claire always plans escape routes so that should a skill not be spot-on in the routine it doesn't mess up the rest of the routine. Sometimes they may connect if they feel OK, but it's not a big problem if they don't.

IG: What do you think you and your team will need to do, to keep the momentum building from Stuttgart to Beijing?

BD: We've got to keep up our team spirit and work hard now. We can't relax. Our target is to try and move up the rankings, but we have to remember that there were good teams that made mistakes, so if these teams hit we will have to do a bit more to stay in our position. For me personally, I have to look after my body and manage my training with care. I want to be able to do all four pieces this year.

IG: What are your goals for 2008?

BD: It's difficult to give you a clear answer because, of course, my ultimate goal is to medal at the Olympics, but this may not be realistic yet. So I plan step-by-step goals. Now my goal is to recover, then get to the European Championships (in April). I would like to make some finals at the Europeans, but I will have to be careful. I don't want to push at this comp and be wiped out for Beijing. So I'll just say my goal is to get to the Olympics and do my coach, my club and my country proud, hopefully with a final or two.

The team goal I suppose is just to hold it together, lift our fitness level and go out to Beijing with a fully fit team, well prepared and ready to do a job.

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