Former Great Britain swimmer Sharron Davies has told talkSPORT she once trained at the age of 11 despite breaking BOTH her arms after falling out of a tree.
Davies, who won silver in the 400-metre individual medley at the 1980 Olympics, joined White and Sawyer on Tuesday morning to relect on her experiences in elite sport in the wake of Athlete A being released on Netflix.
The documentary takes a deep dive into the USA Gymnastics abuse scandal involving doctor Larry Nassar, who is serving 60 years in federal prison and up to 300 years in state prison after being accused of assaulting at least 250 young women and girls – including numerous Olympic and US gymnasts – dating back to 1992.
British gymnasts have since spoken out about the abuse they have been on the end of while training, with one former elite artistic gymnast telling Sky News she was ‘beaten into submission’ by a coach.
And Davies has opened up on her own experience as a young athlete – though she admits she doesn’t feel her intense training could be considered abuse.
“When I was 11 I fell out of a tree and broke both my arms,” said Davies on talkSPORT. “I broke both bones in both arms and I had plaster casts from my wrists up to my shoulders.
“After a week of having to go back in to have the plasters re-set, my dad – who was my coach at the time – said, ‘Sharron, you’ve missed a week of training and your rivals haven’t missed that week, so what can we do?’
“So we went via a supermarket and picked up a load of plastic bags, and figured out a way to tape them around the plaster casts – and for three months I trained with two broken arms.
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“Some people may retrospectively say that was too much, but I wasn’t in pain. A lot of the time my arms were put on floats and I was doing kicking sets which meant that I stayed physically fit throughout that period of time.
“It didn’t feel odd or feel like I was being persecuted; it felt like I was trying to find a way around an accident to keep myself fit and training, so that when the plasters came off I could pick up and carry on.
“I think everyone has to make their own judgement calls.
“So I think the line is when you are in physical pain and it is doing you physical damage, that is the line.”
On the British gymnasts’ claims of historic abuse, documented in the Mail here, Davies admits the distinction between what is right and wrong in elite sport has often been blurred.
She opined: “Gymnastics is one of the very toughest sports, for the amount of work required, the level of risk involved with the practise and what they are doing, the age – you’ve got a lot of very young people who are often taken away from home and from their parents to be in training camps – and I think this is a practice of years gone by, not quite so much a practice of things happening in the last few years.
“It is difficult to find that line. Some of the areas of complaint were about people training until their hands bleed and then having surgical spirits put on them, and I think that is fairly normal practice in the industry they are in because their hands are put through such gruelling training regimes so they can do the number of hours they need to do on the bars. They have to toughen their hands up to be able to deal with the number of hours.
“So where is that line between what is acceptable and what’s not?
“It’s absolutely not acceptable to put children into cupboards and starve them. And it is not acceptable in any form to have mental abuse, because that mental abuse stays with people for a very, very long time after physical scars disappear.”