Gymnasts Becky and Ellie Downie recognised in 2024 New Year Honours for speaking out about abuse

Gymnasts Ellie and Becky Downie
Gymnasts Ellie and Becky Downie
By Joe Locker, Local Democracy Reporter

World championship gymnastic medallists Becky and Ellie Downie, who spoke out against shocking abuse in British gymnastics, are among those to have been recognised in the New Year Honours List for 2024.

The national list is released each year and recipients are typically awarded for “outstanding contributions across all parts of the UK” for work in areas such as sustained public service, youth engagement and community work.

Recommendations for honours are decided by a committee and then passed to the Prime Minister and the King for approval.

Nottingham-based duo Rebecca Lauren Downie (Becky), 31, and Elissa Rebecca Louise Downie (Ellie), 24, have both been honoured for their services to gymnastics.

The older of the sisters, Becky, first made her Olympic debut at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Some of her achievements include a double Commonwealth gold in 2014, the same year as taking European gold on the uneven bars, while in 2015 she was part of the British team which won a historic team world bronze medal.

In 2016, she was crowned European bars champion once again as well as winning silver in the team event.

After some time out of competition, Becky entered the 2023 European Championships in Antalya, where she won team gold and floor silver.

Having also started from a young age, Ellie won Britain’s first ever all-around medal at the European Championships; one of 12 medals she went on to win at continental and world level.

In 2020, the sisters spoke publicly about the abuse and culture of fear they experienced in the sport.

This coincided with the launch of the Whyte Review into culture in gymnastics, and the subsequent report revealed an ingrained culture of abusive behaviour and poor complaint handling in the sport.

While Ellie retired in January, citing her mental wellbeing, she did so as one of Britain’s most successful gymnasts in recent times.

Meanwhile, Becky continues to compete.

Gymnasts Ellie and Becky Downie, from Nottingham, have been honoured
Gymnasts Ellie and Becky Downie, from Nottingham, have been honoured

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It was definitely a shock.

“I think we had to go through such a difficult time with everything we brought up within the sport.

“To be recognised on that type of scale, we know we did the right thing, but to get this for that I think just symbolises it even more.

“I hope it will encourage positivity around it, rather than the negative aspects around it which is what me and Ellie felt for a long time.

“Hopefully it will encourage other people to use their voice and speak up, because we’ve been rewarded for it now.”

Becky is now training and working towards the Paris Olympic Games in July 2024.

“Everything is going really well,” she added. “I have been out for a long time so it is important for me to get back to competition this year.

“It has definitely not been the easiest few years. Touch all the wood I probably feel, physically, in the best position I have ever been in my career, so I’m excited for the next competition now.

“I was always aiming for that Olympic medal, that Olympic finale if you want to call it that, but at the end of the day I knew I didn’t need a medal to define my career and what I have done.

“The MBE does recognise our career but also the impact me and Ellie have had across the sport.”

Honoured in the Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) category is Newark’s Stephen Charnock.

While Mr Charnock served with the Royal Air Force (RAF) for 34 years, he says he is perhaps more proud of his work in the voluntary sector.

He has been involved with the National Civil War Centre (NCWC) for the last eight years, initially to translate 17th century tracts into modern day dialect, and in 2013 he became Chair of Trustees for Newark and Tuxford Foodbank and set about securing much needed funding.

He also works as a volunteer caseworker and secretary for the Nottinghamshire branch of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Family Association (SSAFA).

More recently he spearheaded the creation of a ‘Social Supermarket’, which he says helps people retain their “dignity” when in need of help.

The Social Supermarket acts as a club and offers longer-term support over a traditional foodbank.

“I’m very honoured I have to say, delighted,” he said.

“I retired in 2013. I was an engineering officer in the Royal Air Force and I have to say I look back on that period with enormous pride. I thoroughly enjoyed it, at times it was stressful, there was a lot of hard work involved.

“But if I am being honest about it, since I left in 2013, when I look back on my life now the things I am more proud of than anything else are the times I’ve spent volunteering with various organisations.

“Throughout the whole of those 34 years, I’ve been to some interesting places, done some interesting jobs, met some really interesting people, but nowhere near the same as in reality with those people you meet from a volunteering perspective.”

He added most people have skills that are valuable to voluntary sector and encourages people to get involved.

Full List of New Year Honours: Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Awards 

Officers of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Jacqueline BLAKE, Nottingham, Lately Chair, LACA, The Food People.
For services to Education.

Professor Matthew Jon BROOKES, Professor of Physics, University of
Nottingham. For services to Physics.

Eunice Fay CAMPBELL-CLARK, Lately Member, City of Nottingham
Council. For services to Local Government.

Rachael Louise DOYLE (Rachael Mills), Newark, Director, SE2 and Chirpy Heat. For services to Energy Efficiency and to Diversity and Inclusion.

John Neil EVERITT, West Bridgford, Chief Executive Officer, National Forest
Company. For services to Conservation.

Martin John RIGLEY MBE, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Lately Managing Director, Lindhurst Engineering Ltd. For services to the East Midlands Covid-19 Response and to the community in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.

Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Elissa Rebecca Louise Downie MBE, 24, Hucknall, for services to Gymnasts and to the Sport of Gymnastics.

Rebecca Lauren Downie MBE, 31, Nottingham, for services to Gymnasts and to the Sport of Gymnastics.

Julie Heather Gray MBE, 61, Newark, founder, Adventure Activities for All Abilities, for services to children with impairments in Nottinghamshire.

Jacqueline Neilson MBE (Jacky), 64, Worksop, Chief Executive Officer, Rain Rescue, for services to Animal Welfare

Ethel Gloria Anderson MBE, 74, Nottingham, for services to the community in St Ann’s.

Medallists of the Order of the British Empire (BEM)

Stephen Charnock BEM, 65, Newark, for services to the community in Newark, Nottinghamshire.

Ian Gordon Vincent BEM, 71, Nottingham, President, Nottingham Croquet Club, for services to Croquet.

Graham Nelson Hall BEM, 72, Mansfield, Vice President, Nottinghamshire Football Association Ltd, for services to Young People and Sport.

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