British Gymnastics ruled over culture of bullying and fat shaming, Olympic medallist Amy Tinkler says
Written by Rother Radio News on 07/10/2020
Amy Tinkler is the highest-profile gymnast so far to accuse British Gymnastics of ruling over a bullying and fat-shaming culture.
The 21-year-old alleged she was called “fat” by one coach and celebrated for looking better after coming out of hospital after having food poisoning by another coach.
The gymnast, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, says she would hand the medal back to have not “gone through” years of what she claims were abusive comments and practices.
They include allegations of fat shaming by British Gymnastics head coach Amanda Reddin.
Tinkler, from Durham, says she was left her with serious mental health problems and retired from gymnastics prematurely, aged just 19.
“I would give up that medal to not have gone through what I did, which is really sad,” she said. “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.”
Tinkler finished third behind American superstar Simone Biles with a stunning performance on the floor in Rio.
But her flawless routines and exhaustive work hid the secret that she was already suffering behind the scenes.
Tinkler has made a complaint about bullying at the South Durham gymnastics club where she trained until the Rio Olympics, and two coaches there have been suspended with an investigation ongoing.
But her latest claims centre on her time with the elite squad at British Gymnastics’ Lilleshall training centre in Shropshire.
Tinkler says she was called “fat” by head coach Amanda Reddin, who stepped aside from her role pending an investigation, and told that she would be better if she looked like a “lettuce leaf” by another coach.
She also claims British Gymnastics national coach Colin Still celebrated her appearance after she had food poisoning.
“Comments about your weight were just normalised,” she said. “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,” she said. “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’.”
In a statement given to Sky News, Colin Still said: “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.”
Amanda Reddin said she would also be fully supportive to an independent investigation and submit “all relevant information and evidence” in response to the allegations.
Dozens of gymnasts from grassroots to elite level have complained about a corrosive culture within British gymnastics and several are pursuing a group action legal claim against individual coaches and the governing body, as revealed by Sky News.
But Tinkler says some are still scared to speak out: “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.”
British Gymnastics said in a statement: “The incidents recounted by Amy are completely unacceptable in our sport. Investigations are already underway into a number of these claims.”
With their stars turning against them, the governing body is under increasing pressure to place athlete welfare at the heart of its future.
© Sky News 2020