Former European gymnastics champion Dominick Cunningham has described being covered in blood and falling unconscious during ‘brutal’ training sessions that pushed his body to its limits.
But the 25-year-old from Birmingham, who won floor gold in Glasgow in 2018, says recent allegations of bullying and abuse have crossed the line and must be rigorously addressed for the sake of future generations.
Escalating scandal peaked in national sport this week when sisters Becky and Ellie Downie described a culture in which serious injuries were routinely fired and gymnasts verbally assaulted over their weight.
Under pressure, British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen said she was “appalled and ashamed” by the revelations, and the governing body vowed to comply with an independent review led by Jane Mulcahy QC.
In a statement on his social media accounts, Cunningham illustrated the efforts gymnasts put in to be successful in the sport – and the dangers when such a required level of commitment is pushed too far.
Cunningham, who is currently a member of GB’s world class program, said: “Gymnastics is such an amazing sport, but it is among the most brutal.
“I was covered in blood, I fell unconscious and I cried several times, but for me, that’s what it is to be an elite athlete.
“However, the stories I have heard from people speaking out are unacceptable. The gymnasts are young and vulnerable.
“We should never hear coaches taking advantage of the young people that people like me are trying to inspire to get into the gym and play superhuman sport.
“The stories we all see from gymnasts past and present are really hard to see as someone who loves the sport so much. I am proud of everyone who has stepped forward and spoken out for positive change.
Cunningham suffered a serious knee ligament injury in 2019 as he sought to defend his European title in Poland, leading him to almost six months of hiatus.
In 2011, while still in the junior ranks, Cunningham suffered a fractured vertebrae that excluded him from the sport for nine months.