Gymnastics: Great Britain take the world by storm

British Gymnastics has never been so good. Following the London 2012 Olympics, where the men’s team secured a well-deserved bronze team medal, the Brits have really upped their game.

Hosting this year’s World Championships in Glasgow, where the 2014 Commonwealth Games were also held, definitely gave the team a home advantage but certainly no one seemed to expect the haul of British medals and the history that each athlete would help to make.

At the beginning of the week both the men’s and the women’s team were looking to qualify in the top eight, not only to make it through to the team final but also to secure a place at the Rio Olympics next summer. Both teams qualified in third and with Rio qualification ensured it was all to play for in the team final.

The ladies were up first and it was always looking to be a strong contest with the USA and China. The GB team of Claudia Fragapane, Becky Downie, Ellie Downie, Ruby Harrold, Amy Tinkler and Kelly Simm had a difficult start as the younger Downie sister, Ellie, took a fall on the uneven bars.

After some spectacular vault scores from Ellie, Fragapane and Tinkler the British girls made history though, claiming their first ever bronze medal, their previous best being fifth in 2011. It was no surprise to see America nab their third consecutive gold with China taking the silver medal.

The following day it was the turn of the boys (Daniel Purvis, Max Whitlock, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas, Nile Wilson and Brinn Bevan) and they had a lot to live up to. They got off to a great start and were soon in medal contention with some of the other teams having issues. The Chinese team have often dominated at the World’s but a poor start led to them having to work hard to improve their position.

The Japanese team led throughout and it was then between the Brits and the Chinese to take either the silver or bronze medal. On the last rotation some fantastic floor routines were pulled out of the bag by Thomas, Purvis and Whitlock, moving the team into a gold medal position with only the score of Japan’s Kohei Uchimuru to come. Despite having fallen from the high bar his score was too high for the Brits who took the silver medal, another first for the British team.

The next two days brought the men’s and women’s all-around finals with Whitlock and Purvis taking on all six apparatus (high bar, pommel horse, vault, floor, rings and parallel bars) and Harrold and Tinkler taking on four (beam, uneven bars, vault and floor).

Sadly for the women it was not meant to be as Tinkler fell from both the bars and the beam, finishing in 23rd with Harrold in 22nd. America’s Simone Biles took her third world title with her team-mate Gabby Douglas in second and Romania’s Larisa Iordache claiming bronze.

For the men it was a story of what could have been; Whitlock battled it out with Uchimuru for the gold but a fall from the high bar moved him from second down to eighth with only one rotation left. There was huge potential for a British boy to be in amongst the medals but despite a mammoth floor routine Whitlock couldn’t pull it back, finishing in fifth with Purvis in seventh.

Uchimuru took his sixth world title with a huge overall score of 92.322, Cuba’s Manrique Larduet in silver and China’s Deng Shudi in third. Though there was some disappointment in the British camp for both Brits to finish in the top seven of the world is something to be applauded.

Over the weekend the apparatus finals were confirmed with the Brits in with a chance of some more medals. Any all-around sadness for Whitlock was obliterated in the men’s floor final as he achieved a high score of 15.566, obtaining the silver medal with team-mate Purvis in fifth.

Over in the women’s vault Ellie Downie was in contention, this being her first ever World final. Despite an average difficulty start of 5.6 she executed her vaults in the low nines, seeing her into fourth place. With a fall from the Swiss Giulia Steingruber Russia’s Maria Paseka got the gold with China’s Hong Un Jong and Biles rounding off the medals.

In the pommel horse final it was the Battle of the Brits with Whitlock and Smith both the best of the bunch. Smith was up before his team-mate with a great score of 16.033 and with Whitlock the last competitor a gold for Great Britain was ensured. Whitlock performed a stunning routine and moved himself into first with a score of 16.133, stating afterwards that he felt ‘a bit emotional’. Smith took the silver, but all eyes were on Whitlock, the first ever British man to take a World gold medal.

Harrold took to the stage for the last time to compete in the women’s uneven bars final, finishing in seventh position. Four gymnasts received the same score of 15.366 for their routine, Fan Yilin, Victoria Komova, Daria Spiridonova and Madison Kocian were each awarded a gold medal with no silver or bronzes.

Wilson showed off his expertise by becoming the first Briton to ever make it to a parallel bars final and the junior champion on this apparatus finished in 8th with a strong score of 15.233, stating afterwards that he was ‘extremely happy and proud to represent the country and be in the top eight in the world.’ Gold went to China’s You Hao with Ukraine’s Oleg Verniaiev and Oleg Stepko in silver and bronze.

Ellie Downie returned in the women’s floor final accompanied by Fragapane. Hopes were pinned on the latter for a possible medal but one high tumble brought her into the red area of the floor boundaries, leaving her in sixth and Downie in seventh despite a strong performance. Biles took the gold, her tenth world title, with Ksenia Afanasyeva of Russia and America’s Margaret Nichols behind.

Image: Facebook, British Gymnastics (The GB women win a bronze medal)

There was no British contention in the men’s high bar, rings and vault or the women’s beam but it was certainly one hell of a championships for the British. The boys really pulled out all of the stops and with upgrades to her routines due in the coming months Downie could be a huge presence for the future.

The next stop is Rio and if both teams are able to repeat their World Championship records then it will certainly prove fantastic for the country and for the sport.

Did you see any of the gymnastics? Leave your comments below.