Amy Tinkler: I felt sick after national coach compared me to ‘fat dwarf’

Amy Tinkler has described how she was left feeling “sick” after a national coach alluded to her being a “fat dwarf” amid a fresh set of weight-shaming allegations being levelled at British Gymnastics.

The governing body, which is already under fire for its handling of a complaint Tinkler submitted in December 2019 concerning allegations of mistreatment, described the development as “extremely worrying” and vowed to launch an immediate investigation.

Tinkler has released evidence of an email chain between national coach Colin Still, who remains in the role, and nutritionist Mhairi Keil, which took place on February 2, 2017, following an assessment during a national squad performance camp in Lilleshall.

Keil begins by complimenting Tinkler, who was cc-d, on her updated data relating to body composition, to which Still responds querying whether Tinkler “already looks a little heavy”.

When Keil seeks to reassure Still by explaining the data in greater depth, Still responds: “Thanks Mhairi I will get back to my skiing knowing that Amy is not turning into a fat dwarf!!”

Tinkler, who had recently left her club, South Durham, against which a series of unrelated complaints are pending, to move to South Essex, described how the comments brought back already sensitive issues around her weight.

Amy Tinkler
Amy Tinkler

In a post on social media, she said she “felt sick and started crying” when she read the emails, adding: “My weight has been a sensitive issue since I was 13 years old, with the national coaches always mentioning it as a problem.

“It was the second email that really made me cry. Colin called me a ‘fat dwarf’. I just sat there crying. I asked mam if I looked fat. So many thoughts went through my mind. He’s the national coach but why would he say that? What have I done for him to be that mean to me?”

Tinkler, who said she received no apology from Still, added: “Please know that I hate doing this in public, it’s unfair on me, and on the people, I’m going to talk about, but I don’t see that I’ve been given any other choice.

World Cup of Gymnastics – The O2
World Cup of Gymnastics – The O2

“What’s the point in doing the right thing, following guidelines, to just be lied to, misled and dismissed. The top people at British Gymnastics haven’t shown any empathy or desire to acknowledge change so it’s time their behaviour is shared in public.”

Earlier this month, the English Institute of Sport (EIS) rejected a complaint about weight-shaming from Tinkler’s Rio team-mate and double world bronze medallist Ellie Downie.

Downie revealed she had been routinely told to lose weight during national camps, and been asked by a nutritionist to provide food diaries of everything she ate, and post daily pictures of herself in her underwear.

A British Gymnastics spokesperson said: “This is extremely worrying. A coach should not be speaking in this way about a gymnast. We have immediately begun an investigation into this matter.

“We have contacted Amy Tinkler to ask for the original emails from 2017 and other relevant information to aid that investigation. We have checked all available records and cannot find reference that we have previously had a complaint about these comments.”