Ellie Downie retires: gymnastics star announces retirement to prioritise her ‘mental health and happiness’

The 23-year-old Olympian Ellie Downie has announced she has retired from gymnast due to her mental health

The British Olympian Ellie Downie has announced she has retired from gymnastics. The 23-year-old said her mental health “was taking a beating” and she put a statement on her social media on Monday announcing her decision.

Taking to Twitter, Downie sad: “To say it’s been a difficult decision is a massive understatement, but after a really tough last few years, I’ve made the decision to prioritise my mental health and happiness.”

Downie won 12 medals during her senior career of which one includes the historic all-round European Championship gold in 2017 and in 2020, Downie and her sister Becky spoke out about the abusive behaviour in British gymanstics saying it was ‘ingrained’ and ‘completely normalised’.

Sarah Powell, the chief executive of British Gymnastics, said Downie was a “trailblazer in how she hs reflected on her experiences to challenge and push the sport of gymnastics forward. Her bravery and honesty, privately and publicly, helpls shape the future of our sport.”

Here is all you need to know about Ellie Downie...

Who is Ellie Downie?

Downie was born in Nottinghamshire in 1999 and was an artistic gymnast who was the first gymnast to win a major all-around title for Great Britain. She is the younger sister of a European champion, Becky, and she first came to prominence when she won four medals at the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics.

Ellie and her sister Becky (L) at Rio in 2016

At the age of 15, she became the first British woman to win an individual all-around medal at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships, with a bronze, and later that year she was part of the team that won Britain’s first global team medal, when they won bronze at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championship.

She once again made history at the 2017 European Championships when she became the first British gymnast to win the all-around at a major international competition. Downie competed at the 2016 Rio Olympics where she placed 13th after landing on her head during a tumbling pass on floor.

The 23-year-old is the sister of Josh Downie who passed away after suffering a heart attack while playing cricket. The 24-year-old keen cricketer and PE teacher reportedly had no health problems and collapsed while in the nets in Birkenhead, near Liverpool in May 2021 and passed away later that evening. At the time, Becky Downie said: “No words can describe the pain we as a family are all feeling right now. The world is so cruel sometimes...Josh, you are the most amazing brother. We will forever be the Downie 5.”

What has been said?

After announcing her retirement, Downie was interviewed by BBC Sport’s Laura Scott and the 23-year-old said: “It wasn’t the sport itself, I still very much love gymnastics. I want to stay within realsm of it, but it was how people were treating me. “

In 2022, the Whyte Review found systemic abuse in the sport but Downie has said that speaking out caused further issues in her selection: “At the time I was pretty confident (to speak out). Ultimately it did hinder us a lot, we both didn’t make the Tokyo Games. But I really wanted to make a positive change.

“When I got tothe last trial (before Tokyo), I decided to pull out. But the whole scenario around it, no-one came up to me, I sat on the bench crying, the coaches ignored me. I went home without anyone speaking to me before I left - that was absolutely heart-breaking.”

Downie also added that while she says she ‘lost direction’ following the death of her brother, she believes it was used as a ‘narrative’ to justify her non-selection for Tokyo: “I was coming in as a reigning world medallist, with the potential to do well in Tokyo if they would help me along the way. I didn’t speak on it at the time, it was too painful to talk about. It’s only been until now that I’ve felt like I can and strong enough to do so.”