Helen Downie on her Team GB gymnast daughters, Becky and Ellie: “My girls have always been extra bendy”

"I’ll cry when they’re marching — I’m about to cry now!" says a proud Olympic mum

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Rebecca and Ellie Downie will be on the same British Gymnastics team this year during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. What does her Mum think of their sibling success?

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What were Becky and Ellie like as children?

I’ve never really had any sporting ambitions
 for either of them, but Becky was always
 doing backflips in car parks and restaurants and when we were out. When I gave up work to have Ellie I had more time, so I took Becky to a gym class when she was seven, and she just took off. When Ellie could walk I started her off in the preschool class and, surprisingly, it just took off for her as well.

Was there a moment when you realised that they weren’t just good, they could be world-class?


When Becky started I didn’t think she’d ever get as far
 as she has, I thought it was just a hobby. But when I went
 to her first competition she
 was actually really good, which surprised me, and she just got better and better. She’s always had a will to win. Neither of them likes losing at all.

Where did the girls’ talent come from?

Well, I’m not sporty! Their dad used to play football, but he’s certainly not athletic so 
I think it’s more drive and determination. And they’ve always been extra bendy.

What are they like as sisters?

They bicker about silly things like clothes and taking things out of each other’s rooms, but they’re not competitive with each other in sport — they help each other. It helps that they’ve got different disciplines [Becky is a bars and beam specialist, while Ellie favours the vault and floor].

How did you discover they’d both been selected to go to Rio?


Ellie got her phone
 call before Becky, which was hard
 because I wasn’t with
 them — they were in the gym. Ellie rang me and said, “I’ve made it!” And I said, “What about Becky?” and she said, “Oh, she hasn’t had a call yet.” Then Becky came on the phone and burst into tears — it was a big relief.

Can you imagine how you’ll feel watching not one but two children competing in the Olympics?

I’ll cry when they’re marching — I’m about to cry now! You just can’t believe they’re in front of so many people and you just want them to be happy and not stuff up their five minutes of fame. I get nervous and it’s really strange to put into words. I didn’t think I’d ever cry over a sport, but I have done now. I’m not overly emotional, but this brings emotions to the surface that I’ve never felt before.

Helen Downie is a child health worker and lives in Nottingham

Women’s gymnastics begins on Sunday 7th August

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