An ashamed Louis Smith says he will seek redemption among the Muslim community after being filmed mocking Islam.
The four-time Olympic medallist, who lives in Peterborough, has issued an apology after appearing to laugh while retired gymnast Luke Carson mimicked Islamic prayer practices on a carpet taken from a wall.
Louis said the video was filmed on Mr Carson’s phone three weeks ago at a hotel in Kettering where he was celebrating his best friend’s wedding.
The footage, he said, was taken at 5am after he had been drinking, and that the pair were singing Disney songs which related to different parts of the world.
“We started singing songs from the Lion King and the Jungle Book. We then wanted to start singing from Aladdin and that’s when Luke got the tapestry off the wall,” said Louis, who won silver on the pommel horse at the Rio Games.
“The behaviour took a turn for the worse, then to the part everyone saw. We were doing all the actions from the films. Luke knows all the lyrics and when he started mocking Islam on the tapestry I was laughing at the randomness of what he was doing.
“He takes a mat off the wall and starts acting like a prat and I got caught in that. I should not have joined in.
“I’m so ashamed. The general public have every right to be disappointed by the way I acted. But one thing I’m not is a racist. I’m part of an ethnic minority myself and I understand the struggle people go through. I’ve received comments myself.
“In terms of the media reaction it’s been justified. I was mocking the faith of Islam and that’s not okay.
“The only thing that has been extreme is some of the comments online which have been disproportionate.”
Louis has received a number of invitations from Mosque leaders to learn more about Islam and he said he is eager to experience the religion’s teachings.
“We will put my ignorance out the window. I’m quite withdrawn when it comes to religion because I’ve never been around it,” said Louis.
“I’ve spoken to people from [local charity] Children of Adam and I’m looking to get involved and rebuild some of the bridges I’ve knocked down.”