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After enjoying her most successful ever year in 2019, Becky Downie is determined to make the most of her final Olympic cycle with all roads leading to Tokyo, writes Bradley West.
Last year brought Downie’s maiden individual World Championships medal as she secured a silver medal in the uneven bars in Stuttgart, beaten only by Belgian double world champion Nina Derwael.
It was an achievement made all the sweeter in that it came after years of struggle – Downie having missed out on London 2012 selection, failing to qualify for the final of the uneven bars in Rio and suffering career-threatening elbow and ankle injuries.
For these reasons, and now aged almost 28 – far beyond the peak for a gymnast, the Nottingham star is anticipating retirement in a year or two with one last shot at a medal on the biggest stage this summer.
“I’ve had a very long gymnastics career and I know that I am coming towards the end of it,” Downie said.
“I don’t have an exact date as to when I’m fully done but I know there’s only a few years left so to make the most of every experience is really important.
“I’m really excited for Tokyo, I feel like I’m in the best position of my career leading into an Olympic Games.
“But I am trying not to get too ahead of myself, that’s lots of work still to be done in the gym and more I still want to achieve so it’s about pacing myself really.
“I want to just enjoy the whole process of my last Olympics, really soak it up. It’s my fourth Olympic cycle so I know what to expect in terms of the trial processes and what a Games is about. I need to use all of that to my advantage.
“Winning silver last year was an incredible experience and so special. My first ever Worlds was in Stuttgart in 2007 and that could potentially be my last so for it to finish how it has, it was an incredible year really.”
If her sporting career in a competitive sense is to come to an end by the time she turns 30 then Downie will have lots to fall back on – including the leotard and experience day business she runs with sister Ellie.
Ellie, who won bronze in the vault at October's World Championships aged 20, may have time on her side but Becky is already planning to focus on ‘Double Downies’ full-time when she hangs up her beam shoes for good.
She added: “I’m super excited to explore more of my business, it’s really fun working with Ellie. We design all of our leotards together, we love doing the experience days and passing our knowledge and experiences on to younger generations.
“We brought out some new leotards for Christmas and had shoots around that point, it was a bit hectic fitting it around our schedules but it’s good fun.
“For now, I’m just really pleased that we managed to set it up and have worked at it at our own pace while we’re training and competing, but then once I retire I’ll be able to put a lot more time into it.”
It is not just a business that Becky has her sights set on too, with the goal already in mind to join the long line of sporting authors by penning her own book.
“I would really like to write a book," she added. "It stems from wanting to tell all of my history coming up through the sport and the four different Olympic cycles, the change in British Gymnastics over that period too and I think it would be a great way to get all my views and opinions out."