Fresh from her second gold medal in as many days, Georgia Godwin hopes her achievements at the Commonwealth Games can show the public gymnastics is a safe sport for young people.
Godwin won the individual vault on Tuesday morning (AEST) along with a second silver on the uneven bars, in a head-turning Birmingham campaign that has created positive headlines for the controversy-hit sport.
International gymnastics has spent the past year plagued by scandals, with athletes in multiple countries reporting shocking stories of alleged sexual, physical and mental abuse as well as fat shaming and cultures in which medals take precedence over athlete welfare.
In Australia, the findings of an independent cultural review, conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission and published in May last year, revealed “systemic risk factors” within the sport, including for child abuse and neglect, misconduct, bullying, abuse, sexual harassment and assault towards athletes.
Gymnastics Australia subsequently apologized to its athletes over the “confronting” report and said there was much work to be done.
Godwin said she had found the allegations unsettling, and had deliberately blocked out the conversation because it was detrimental to her mental health when she was attempting to focus on major competitions.
But she said she was hopeful for the sport’s future.
“I do my best to try and show that gymnastics is a safe sport and that everyone should feel safe doing gymnastics,” she said. “And we’re heading in the right direction, so that is really exciting to see.”
The 24-year-old, who is older than many of her female counterparts, felt a responsibility to “mother” the younger athletes.
“I really just tried to take them under my wing and show them and what sportsmanship looks like,” she said.
Godwin was emotional after competition, having contemplated skipping the Birmingham Games altogether because of her longer-than-expected recovery from twin ankle surgeries last year.
Her decision to compete was further vindicated in the vault, beating Canada’s Laurie Denommee on a tiebreak.
She then came agonizingly close to a third gold on the uneven bars but settled for silver behind England’s defending champion, Georgia-Mae Fenton. The Queenslander can yet win a fifth medal in the beam on Wednesday morning (AEST).
“I just come to these competitions and I just have fun and I do my best and the medals are a huge bonus,” she said. “I’ve learned that putting that expectation on me doesn’t help.
“The medals are a huge bonus, but just being here experiencing this, being on the Australian team wearing the green and gold, is enough for me. I always go out and do my best.”