Former European gymnastics champion Dominick Cunningham has described being covered in blood and falling unconscious during “brutal” training sessions which have pushed his body to the limit.
But the Birmingham 25-year-old, 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 good of future generations.
The escalating scandal reached the top of the domestic sport this week when the sisters Becky and Ellie Downie described a culture in which serious injuries were routinely dismissed and gymnasts were verbally abused about their weight.
Under-pressure British Gymnastics chief executive Jane Allen has said she is “appalled and ashamed” by the revelations, and the governing body has vowed to comply with an independent review headed by Jane Mulcahy QC.
In a statement on his social media accounts, Cunningham illustrated the lengths gymnasts go to in order to succeed in the sport – and the dangers when such a required level of commitment is stretched too far.
Cunningham, who is a current member of GB’s world-class programme, said: “Gymnastics is such an incredible sport but it is up there with some of the most brutal.
“I have been covered in blood, have fallen unconscious and cried many times, but for me, this is what being an elite athlete is.
“However the stories that I’ve been hearing from people speaking out are unacceptable. Gymnasts are young and vulnerable.
“We should never hear coaches taking advantage of young people that people like myself are trying to inspire to get in the gym and do a super-human sport.
“The accounts we’re all seeing from gymnasts past and present are really tough to see as someone who loves the sport so much. I’m proud of everyone who has come forwards and spoken up for positive change.”
Cunningham suffered a serious knee ligament injury in 2019 as he sought to defend his European title in Poland, leading to almost six months out of action.
In 2011, when still in the junior ranks, Cunningham suffered a fractured vertebrae which ruled him out of the sport for nine months.