RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Taking inspiration from the sequinned lion on her blue leotard, British gymnast Ellie Downie roared back from a rough tumble that hurt her neck in the floor exercise, completing the vault to help her team pocket strong marks in Sunday’s qualifying round.
Britain were provisionally third, behind China and Russia, with a total of 174.064 points, though they were likely to be bumped down once the American team competed in the fourth group of competitors.
Downie, 17, said she turned too slowly during a tumble, causing her knees to buckle and crunching up her neck. She carried on, but started to feel dizzy right before her last tumble and walked off the floor, seeming dazed.
“I was like, ‘Stop, make sure you’re okay first’. So I went out, came back, and I was fine,” she told reporters after the competition.
Becky Downie, Ellie’s 24-year-old sister and fellow gymnast, called her younger sibling a “fighter” for coming back to land a 14.833 on vault after her scare.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system, and I’m just really glad she’s okay,” she said.
The overwhelmingly Brazilian crowd at the Rio Olympic Arena breathed a sigh of relief when Ellie returned, with memories still fresh of the broken leg sustained by French gymnast Samir Ait Said in a crash landing from the vault on Saturday.
The British women fared particularly well on bars and, despite a few sloppy landings and a fall for Becky Downie on beam, were upbeat about their prospects.
“I’m so proud of our team,” said British gymnast Amy Tinkler, 16. “We all know we have a chance at medaling now.”
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Pritha Sarkar; Editing by Kevin Liffey