An impromptu four-hour autograph session in the wake of winning two gold medals at the European Championships in Birmingham in 2010 gave Beth Tweddle first-hand experience of the depth of enthusiasm that exists within domestic gymnastics.
Now Tweddle believes it is imperative the sport implements the recommendations of the ongoing Whyte Review into abuse and bullying, in order that it can reassure those star-struck youngsters who will be queueing around the arena at next year’s World Championships in Liverpool.
The 36-year-old former three-time world champion has urged those with concerns to continue speaking out, whilst reflecting upon her own “really positive experience” during her career, when she became the first British female gymnast to win a medal at a major championships.
Tweddle told the PA news agency: “I had a really positive experience in the sport and I look back with fond memories.
“But I just urge people (with concerns) to speak to a trusted person. The reviews are ongoing and I just want every child to feel safe within the sport, and then we can all move forward.”
Tweddle’s coach Amanda Reddin temporarily stepped down from her role as national head coach in August last year, pending the outcome of an investigation into allegations made against her by others regarding her conduct.
The Whyte Review’s interim report last month revealed that it was considering almost 400 submissions, including 39 so potentially serious they have been referred to the relevant statutory authorities. British Gymnastics has said it remains “fully committed” to assisting the review.
This week’s European Championships in Switzerland represent a return to international competition for the likes of two-time Olympic gold medallist Max Whitlock, and as such are a first step on the road to Tokyo and beyond.
With Whitlock already committed to another Olympic cycle, the potential for the sport from a profile perspective remains significant, and Tweddle believes that the impact of hosting a World Championships in England for the first time since 2009 should not be underestimated.
“I know the impact that having a home event can have on the country, on the participation levels for gymnastics – it just creates a really positive vibe,” said Tweddle.
“British Gymnastics has so many household names now, people who follow them and know them and know their personalities, and they all want to be a part of that journey. Being able to watch them live just cements what it means for those youngsters.
“That day back in Birmingham was amazing, just seeing the endless amount of youngsters coming through.
“We’re 11 years on now and gymnastics has only grown in popularity since then. It just goes back to the need to create that fun, safe environment for every child to enjoy themselves.”
:: Tickets for the World Gymnastics Championships go on sale at 10am on Thursday 22 April 2021 at www.2022worldgymnastics.com/tickets