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The secrets behind British Gymnastics

Retired British artistic gymnast, Amy Tinkler, reveals shocking secrets behind British Gymnastics as she wishes that she had not “gone through” the years of abuse.

The 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist has shone light on her past experiences claiming she was called “fat” by a coach while another even celebrated her appearance after being discharged from hospital for food poisoning.

Tinkler, the highest-profile gymnast to speak out, said that she’s suffered enough and is now left with serious mental health issues which ultimately caused her to retire young at the age of 19. The abuse even included fat shaming from Amanda Reddin, the National Head Coach.

"I would give up that medal to not have gone through what I did, which is really sad," Tinkler says.

"Obviously getting an Olympic medal is not a normal thing. Not many people consider they've got an Olympic medal and the fact that I'd just rather not have that to have gone through what I went through. It's really sad."

16-years of age at the time, Tinkler was the youngest member of Team GB at the 2016 Rio games. Her impressive talent was only masking the pain and darkest which only her and her coaches knew about. She has since made a bullying compliant against two coaches who helped her train for the Rio Olympics at the South Durham Gymnastics clubs which is currently under investigation. However, her latest claims are centred around her time in Shropshire at the British Gymnastics’ Lilleshall training centre.

According to Tinkler, Amanda Reddin called her “fat” while another coach is accused of claiming that Tinkler would be better if she looked like a “lettuce leaf”. In addition, national coach Colin Still celebrated Tinklers’ appearance after being in hospital for food poisoning.

Tinkler goes on to say, "Comments about your weight were just normalised.

"Coaches saying stuff about your weight, making little comments.

"There was one time I was running around, and I was like, 'Oh, I'm so hungry'. And he was like, 'Oh, well, you're not training this afternoon, so you don't need to eat too much. As long as you look like a lettuce leaf, you're doing well.'”

"There was another time I got food poisoning real bad," Tinkler adds.

"I was in hospital overnight and I came back into gym into Lilleshall when I was feeling better. And Colin said, 'Well, at least you'll have lost weight now, try not to put it back on'."

Amy first entered a gym at the age of two and quickly fell in love with the sport and by the age of seven was competing in Nationals. Although, at the age of 12 she noticed training became tougher. Longer hours and coaches became inconsiderate of injuries and her health. Thus, causing Amy to suffer in silence making her uncomfortable to speak out and seek the support she vouched for.

Colin Still commented following Amy’s claims by saying, "I feel genuinely devastated if any comments I have made have hurt Amy or any other gymnasts I have coached.

"I do not recall or have record of making these comments attributed to me two years ago.

"An investigation is ongoing which I fully support and will be submitting all relevant information and evidence to."

Reddin on the other hand has said she is supportive of an investigation and will submit "all relevant information and evidence".

British Gymnastics has created a culture of fear causing eating disorders, agonising mental health and fear of punishment for speaking out on the truth of what happens during training sessions. Parents of gymnasts also fear for the safety and wellbeing of their children causing them to feel anxious if their son or daughter takes up the sport. But surely the culture has to change?

According to a report by The Telegraph, parents claim that gyms have a close-door policy, while others have said that parents are not allowed in during sessions but can only attend end-of-term presentations.

“Our advice is to talk to us about how to reassure their children, but also to really keep an open dialogue with their children, and develop that sense that, if they’re feeling afraid or worried, then they need to talk to a parent or trusted adult.” Says Louise Exton, head of the NSPCC helpline service.

Amy claims, "There's no one in British Gymnastics that anyone feels comfortable going to, and in most personal clubs you don't even feel comfortable going to your personal coaches.

"So, until that changes and until coaches, national coaches, directors become approachable and are willing to learn, willing to change and willing to listen, then nothing's going to happen."

The governing body is under increasing pressure to address the welfare of their current and future stars as they say in a statement, "The incidents recounted by Amy are completely unacceptable in our sport. Investigations are already underway into a number of these claims."

Author: James Parker