Only nine months after she tore her right Achilles' tendon, British gymnast Becky Downie helped her team place fifth at this month's world championships in Tokyo, thereby earning a team berth to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Downie, who finished 12th all-around at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, is eager to return to Olympic form and help her team maintain or better its Tokyo performance next summer in London. IG spoke with the 19-year-old Downie about her speedy comeback and her plans to reach another career milestone at the Olympics in London.
IG: Many people were surprised that you were able to return to form so quickly after such a serious injury. What was the key to your quick comeback?
2008 British Olympian Becky Downie
BD: I guess the key for my quick return was that I was backed 100 percent by a fantastic medical team, and rather than let myself get down about the injury, I just had to keep reminding myself of all the positives that could come from it. I took the opportunity to give my body a break which wouldn't have been possible without the injury, and then everything just moved so quickly. I was making progress every day and it was very exciting to see, and that helped keep me motivated.
IG: Based on your personal performance in Tokyo, what aspects of your program will you focus on between now and the London Olympics?
BD: My main goal is to return to the all-around competition. My preparation leading up to the world championships was a little rushed because of my injury, so I didn't have the numbers behind me to compete well on any apparatus besides bars. I must have only completed 10 beam routines all year, so for me to just compete beam in Tokyo was such a huge achievement that I didn't care too much about the score or result. Bars was the one piece I've been working on for a long period of time, as I was back swinging bars eight weeks post-surgery.
IG: What about upgrading your routines?
BD: I'm really excited to get back to a normal program now, which will include training all four pieces, and we have plans for a few upgrades. Most of the skills we are going to upgrade I have been training for a while, as they were ready before the injury, so it's just a case of getting them all back and getting as fit as possible so I can train with no setbacks as we start the preparations for London.
IG: Your team's fifth-place finish also exceeded many people's expectations. What do you feel contributed to this high ranking?
BD: I think the team just bonded so well together and we all had that same goal of a top-eight finish. None of the team wanted to go back to camp knowing we didn't qualify, and we all wanted a Christmas at home - haha!
After we did qualify in the top eight (for the team final), the pressure was gone and we knew heading into team finals we had nothing to lose. Looking back on the qualifications, we knew as a team we had a few errors and plenty we could improve on for the team final, so we just went out there and gave it our best shot.
IG: Fifth place in the world in the year before the Olympics could put your team in medal contention in London. What are your thoughts on your team's potential to go even high next summer in London?
BD: After we placed fifth we were all so excited at the possibilities for next year, and I think the whole team is just so motivated to try and move to that next level. I think as a team we have so much more we can offer, because this year as a team we did have some setbacks. We lost Nicole Hibbert to injury early in the season, I wasn't fit to compete all four apparatuses and I think all of us have upgrades ready for next year. But these worlds for our team were about staying safe and getting that top-eight finish, which is exactly what we did.
I just can't wait to get back in the gym and start working for myself and the team ready for next summer, and I think if all goes to plan Team GB is going to be an extremely strong team.