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.

Pic­ture: Getty Images

UNITED STATES: Si­mone Biles of the USA con­grat­u­lates Team GB af­ter an his­toric bronze medal win.

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