Ellie Downie says she hopes to use her Rio Olympics experience as a springboard for future success after being part of Team GB’s record-breaking gymnastics squad.
The 17-year-old from Hucknall helped the British women’s team to a fifth-placed finish and also made the all-around final, with her sister Becky alongside her in the team event as they achieved the best British performance since 1928.
And with seven medals having been achieved by Team GB, including the nation’s first ever gymnastics golds thanks to Max Whitlock, Ellie says the whole experience is one she will always remember.
She said: “It was fantastic to be part of.
“Even though I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped in the individual events, nor did we achieve our aims in the team competition, it was a massive learning curve for all of us.
“Brazil is a beautiful place and it was very different to a lot of the competitions we’ve done before, but at the same time the organisation was quite similar to what we experienced at the Euros and we were able to have a lot of down time to relax together as a team which was really good.”
Ellie managed to reach the all-around final despite suffering a nasty fall in qualifcation where she landed on her neck during a floor routine. She ended up finishing in 13th place overall.
She added: “I had targets in mind and wanted to be in the all-around final which I managed. I would have liked to have made the vault final too but knew I’d have a tough job and in the end fell just short.
“I’m confident that if I can learn from some of the mistakes that I could really stand a chance of a medal in future so that’s what I’ll be focusing on now.”
Sister Becky, 24, was unsuccessful in her quest to make the bars final, a discipline in which she is a double European champion, and despite neither of the siblings returning from Brazil with a medal, Ellie says being out there together enhanced the experience.
She said: “Having Becky there definitely helped me, especially with it being her second Olympics and having been through this kind of thing before.
“We’ve done lots of competitions together before and it’s great to be able to share the experience with another member of my family.”
Ellie is now hoping that the overall legacy of Team GB’s success will have a positive impact on the sport as a whole in this country.
The team came back with seven medals altogether - two golds, two silver and three bronze - and inspired thousands of young gymnasts to enrol in local clubs across the UK.
Ellie added: “It was great to see the others do so well and the morale of the whole team was lifted just from watching people like Max, Lewis Smith, Nile Wilson and Amy Tinkler winning their medals, plus Bryony Page in the trampoline.
“I really hope we can now inspire lots of people to take the sport up because this has enhanced its image a lot and shown what can be achieved with plenty of hard work.”
As for Ellie, she is now enjoying some down time having returned from South America and reflecting on her experience.
She said: “Becky and I are both having a rest now and I doubt I’ll be in any more competitions for the rest of this year.
“My focus is on competing again next year and obviously I will have an eye on the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 where I hope to be able to build on what I achieved in Brazil.”