It was supposed to be an innocuous question and answer session and a chance for sports fans to tap the brains of one of Britain’s most successful athletes, Beth Tweddle. Instead, Beth found herself the subject of some spiteful and misogynistic vitriol when she agreed to participate in a live twitter Q&A with Sky Sports – ranging from lewd comments to insults about her appearance.
It is another disappointing reflection of the discrimination female athletes face – an issue that clearly needs more airing. And nobody has let it slip by. There has been unequivocal condemnation of the attacks on Beth, and many gymnastics fans have expressed their support of Beth via tweets, facebook and other social media outlets. Britain’s most decorated gymnast responded with maturity and dignity. She certainly deserves our respect and love – so here are just some of our favourite Beth moments.
Queen on High: Beth has achieved a great many firsts for the UK – first ever women’s Olympic gymnastics medallist, first ever European Championships gold medallist, first British women to defend back to back gold medals on bars andfloor at the European Championships, first British gymnast to receive an MBE … and the list goes on. But one of our favourite firsts is the one that started it all: winning gold at the 2006 World Championships.
Super Model: Beth, along with fellow athletes Becky Downie and Jaime Moore, were featured during Stella McCartney’s presentation of her 2009 Adidas collection at London Fashion Week. While the models stretched and strutted on the floor, Beth, Becky and Jamie were up in the air, performing flips and press handstands on the balance beam.
Beth and Becky Downie doing synchronised cartwheels on the beam
Role Model: A super model in more ways than one, Beth was been refreshingly candid about female body image issues. She has publicly shared her experiences regarding this in video interviews and articles for the Guardian. You wouldn’t find many other female gymnasts talking about wedgies, tampons, boob size and their fear of getting their period whilst clad in a white leotard – a fear every gymnast faces – and Beth talks about them in an honest and matter-of-fact way. It’s reassuring to many a young women to know that an Olympic medallist shares the same concerns about her body as they do.
Actual Model: Beth has been immortalized in not one, but three status. There was the stylized metal cast of her torso, a bronze statue of Beth doing a straddle press, and the time she posed as a statue for famous photographer, Perou for Grazia magazine.
“That’s how the Grecian Olympian athletes were honoured and how every one of these women deserves to be honoured too.” said Perou of the shoot. PREACH.
Beth posing as a statue for Grazia magazine.
Illuminated: This beautiful photoshoot at Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
Badass: Beam may not be her forte, but we give Beth nothing but props for her work on the apparatus. Check out her front tuck mount – it takes serious guts to to open with such a risky move on an apparatus that you don’t favour – and we love (and miss!) a good back hip circle on beam.
Well-Balanced: This video offers a glimpse into Beth’s life, and what is notable is how normal Beth comes across while living a life that is anything but. In between the intense training sessions and the public appearances is a well-grounded young lady with a good head on her shoulders and a sense of humour. She has none of the airs that come from being in the spotlight, or the precociousness that growing up in a sheltered gym environment can lead to. Even her diet reflects her character as disciplined yet level-headed young woman – her meals vary from stir-friend chicken to lasagna, salads to scrambled eggs on toast, with the occasional treat of chocolate. None of that yoghurt cup/fruit for dinner business, which is an important message to send in a sport where diets can be so unhealthily restrictive that Olympic cyclists (who have really strict diets)> feel bad enough to sneak gymnasts candy bars.
And we love that as a Liverpool girl, she naturally supports the Liverpool football team – although Hodgson over Benitez? Really Beth?
People’s Champion: The homecrowd was roaring for Beth’s routine at the London Olympic event finals and she delivered a performance worthy of that long-deserved Olympic medal, with the most exciting woman’s uneven bar routine we’ve seen since Liu Xuan performed a couple of one-armed giants into a geinger release. She may not have won the gold medal, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind who was British people’s the golden girl on that magic night in London.
Haters gonna hate.