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By James Toney
Becky Downie's high-profile omission from Great Britain's Olympic team has nothing to do with her decision to speak out against abuse in gymnastics, according to team officials.
Double Olympian Downie, the world silver medallist on the bars in 2019, expressed shock her name was not on the four-strong squad announced for the Games today.
Last summer, along with sister Ellie, she claimed abusive and cruel behaviour in the British team had been 'completely normalised' with athletes training in an 'environment of fear and mental abuse'.
She didn't compete in the team trials following the sudden death of her brother Josh but was allowed a 'one-on-one' in front of selectors last month.
However she was told she hadn’t been chosen a fortnight ago and given a 48-hour window to appeal, which also clashed with her brother's funeral.
"No athlete has been viewed in any other light because of speaking out. I'm very confident that this team was considered on their gymnastic merits and nothing else," said British Gymnastics performance director James Thomas.
"For me, we've been very clear in every discussion that no gymnast would be biased against based on speaking up. I chaired that selection panel and I'm very confident we adhered to our policy.
"These are very tough decisions. There's been a change in the number of places available from Rio from five places down to four and we've a number of gymnasts performing at that very high level.
"We considered the performances from a two-year window. There were some very good performances from Becky in 2019 but the panel viewed that they'd not seen the level of performance required to win a medal and that was a risk."
Olympic newcomers Alice Kinsella, Amelie Morgan and twins Jennifer Gadirova and Jessica Gadirova were named for the Games, with selectors prioritising success in the team event - where new rules put a heavier weighting on all-around skills - rather than individual apparatus.
Team GB won seven gymnastics medals in Rio, including Max Whitlock's double gold, and have been targeted to achieve four podium places this time around, with the delayed Games broadcast live on Eurosport and discovery+ this summer.
Downie was part of a five-strong women’s team in 2016 and selectors argued the thinned down squad meant tough decisions needed to be made.
However, sister Ellie, the first British gymnast to win a major all-around title at the European Championships, tweeted: "I would say it comes as a shock but after how we’ve been treated this year it’s not really."
Claire Gadirova, the mother of the twins selected, added: "You deserve so much better."
Team GB and the British Athletes' Commission both had observers on selection panel meetings and Colin Still, the national coach under investigation for alleged fat shaming comments about team members, wasn't part of the decision-making process.
"These are fine margins in terms of performance standards and data," said Team GB chef de mission Mark England.
"We have an observer on all selections and it's a thorough and robust process, across every sport. We want to take the most high performing team to the Games."
England confirmed he expected Team GB's delegation to be 375 in Tokyo, nine more than travelled to Rio, where British athletes won 67 medals, including 27 gold, and finished second in the medal table.
However, the uncertainties around Covid and a number of proven performers reaching the autumns of their careers, Olympic champions Alistair Brownlee and Mo Farah both struggling at events this weekend, underline the size of the task ahead.
"We are not putting a target on the team and I don't think UK Sport will either," added England.
"We are taking a highly-competitive team to Tokyo. This is a top, top team and we're excited to see what they can do."
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