Team GB hold their nerve to vault into the history books
Women gymnasts make a dramatic comeback to pip Russia to bronze as the USA retain their world title
THE star-studded USA women’s team has successfully defended their title at the 2015 World Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow while Great Britain took a historic bronze – their first team medal on the world stage. Led by two-time world all-around champion Simone Biles, the team of Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, both part of the “Fierce Five” that took gold at London 2012, alongside Maggie Nichols and Madison Kocian looked unstoppable.
It was always going to be a three-horse race for the minor placings between China, Great Britain and Russia with silver and bronze destined to be decided by the smallest of margins.
Coming into these world championships, the Great Britain team of Becky and Ellie Downie, Claudia Fragapane, Ruby Harrold, Amy Tinkler and Kelly Simm were considered an outside chance for a medal, but were undoubtedly buoyed after a third place in qualification.
At one stage, it all appeared to have slipped away after falling to fifth at the halfway stage, but in the final rotation they fought back with tenacity as Fragapane, Tinkler and Ellie Downie pulled off a series of top-drawer vaults.
Fragapane went first to score 14.833 and suddenly the arena sprung into life as hope was reawakened. If the baby of the team Tinkler – celebrating her 16th birthday that very day – was feeling the pressure, she didn’t show it. She nailed her vault with 15.083.
By the time Downie stepped up, half the arena were on the edge of their seats. The European all-around bronze medallist had already taken a fall on her opening piece of asymmetric bars.
Downie didn’t flinch. She attacked the vault to score a huge 15.133.
USA finished on 181.338 with China – silver medallists for the second year running on 176.164 – and Great Britain posting an impressive 172.380, usurping fourth placed Russia by 0.416.
From the outset it was a high octane affair. USA was not slow in getting down to business with Douglas up first to score 15.233 on vault, followed by Nichols with 15.466 and Biles posting a giant 15.966.
Harrold opened for Great Britain on asymmetric bars and produced a strong routine to score 14.433. Ellie Downie looked impressive but then came a heart-stopping fall which had echoes of her woes in qualification. She recovered to post 13.033.
Big sister Becky Downie looked confident and sailed through her routine with the seamless precision that has made her reigning Commonwealth Games and a former European champion on this apparatus. Her 14.833 was enough to help claw things back a touch for Great Britain.
Komova launched the Russian attack on vault with 15.100 followed by Pasenka who posted 15.600 and Afanasyeva 15.066. Over on bars China, who had looked off kilter in qualifying, were back to their trademark precision. Shang posted 15.233, with Fan and Tan scoring 15.266 and 15.133.
USA led after one rotation followed by Russia, China and Great Britain.
As USA and Russia went to asymmetric bars, Great Britain and China progressed to beam. Among the standout performances in this rotation was from reigning European asymmetric bars champion Spiridonova (Russia) who went clean with 15.141.
Next, Olympic silver medallist Komova fell on bars to score 14.000. USA’s Nichols scored 14.800. Douglas followed with 15.333 and apparatus specialist Kocian posted 15.300.
Ellie Downie, shrugging off her disappointment on bars, regained her mojo with 14.133 on beam.
USA held their impressive lead at the halfway stage followed by Russia, China and Canada with Great Britain slipping to fifth.
It all went to pieces for Russia on beam with Tutkhalyan sitting down on landing, while Kharenkova and Komova both had falls. With a trio of strong performances from Tinkler, Ellie Downie and Fragapane on floor, suddenly there was a glimmer of hope.
Lesser mortals would have crumbled but instead the Great Britain women sensed opportunity. Their place in the sporting history books is richly deserved.
The men are in action today with Great Britain contesting the team final alongside Japan, China, Russia and USA.
UNITED STATES: Simone Biles of the USA congratulates Team GB after an historic bronze medal win.