Glo­ri­ous sil­ver lin­ing for bat­tling Great Bri­tish gym­nas­tics team


GREAT Bri­tain won a his­toric sil­ver medal in the team fi­nal at the 2015 World Gym­nas­tics Cham­pi­onships in Glas­gow last night.

Ja­pan took gold with reign­ing world cham­pi­ons China suf­fer­ing a sur­prise to fin­ish the evening in third at the SSE Hy­dro.

In the end it came down to a nail­bit­ing wait. Af­ter leap-frog­ging China, Rus­sia and USA into the gold medal po­si­tion, the Bri­tish con­tin­gent couldn’t wipe the in­cred­u­lous grins off their faces.

With only Ko­hei Uchimura – the five-time world and reign­ing Olympic al­laround cham­pion – still to com­pete, the at­mos­phere in the arena was elec­tric. When Ja­pan’s “su­per­man” Uchimura suf­fered a fall on high bar, for a glo­ri­ous mo­ment it seemed that Great Bri­tain were about to pull off the big­gest gym­nas­tics up­set of all time.

The ten­sion was un­bear­able. In the end, Ja­pan edged it by 0.473.

It marks the first ever world team medal for the Great Bri­tain, adding to the stel­lar bronze won by their fe­male coun­ter­parts on Tues­day evening.

Great Bri­tain’s Louis Smith, Daniel Purvis, Max Whit­lock, Kris­tian Thomas, Nile Wil­son and Brinn Be­van looked truly im­pres­sive.

Scot­land’s Purvis was an in­te­gral part of the sil­ver-medal win­ning ef­fort with strong scores on par­al­lel bars and floor.

“That was un­be­liev­able,” he said. “Kris­tian and I thought we were fight­ing for bronze. Push­ing for gold is incredible. Es­pe­cially in this sport. A few years ago we were never close to China and Ja­pan. It’s a dream come true. Years ago this would never have hap­pened. The sys­tem is so good, the ju­niors are com­ing through. Scot­tish gym­nasts as well are push­ing up.”

The pre­vi­ous best by Great Bri­tain’s men was fourth in Nan­ning last year.

Ja­pan’s Uchimura, mean­while, fi­nally has that cov­eted world team gold to add to his col­lec­tion of three world sil­vers.

There will be some re­flec­tion for China who were clearly miss­ing that drilled-to-pre­ci­sion ex­cel­lence for which they are renowned with messy floor ex­er­cises and a fall on pom­mel horse.

Af­ter two ap­pa­ra­tus they sat in sev­enth. Such was this rare state of af­fairs spec­ta­tors were whip­ping out cameraphones to take pho­to­graphs of the big screen dis­play­ing the scores.

Rus­sia fin­ished in fourth with a de­pleted USA team – three-time US na­tional cham­pion Sam Miku­lak as well as 2014 world bronze team medal­lists John Orozco and Jake Dal­ton were all out through in­jury – down in fifth.

To­day will see USA’s Si­mone Biles at­tempt to make his­tory by be­com­ing the first woman to win three in­di­vid­ual all-around ti­tles in a row.

The su­perla­tives trip off the tongue when de­scrib­ing the de­fend­ing women’s world all-around cham­pion Biles: en­chant­ing, ex­plo­sive, ground­break­ing, fear­less and dom­i­nant.

At present, the 18-year-old from Texas is one of only six fe­male gym­nasts, in­clud­ing USA’s Shan­non Miller, Svet­lana Khork­ina of Rus­sia, Lud­milla Tourischeva and Larisa Latyn­ina of the former Soviet Union and Cze­choslo­vakia’s Dakanova Vlasta, to win back to back all-around ti­tles.

The now re­tired Khork­ina is the sole triple world all-around cham­pion. No woman, though, has won it three years in suc­ces­sion.

In ad­di­tion to pre­ci­sion per­fec­tion, Biles pos­sesses a charm­ing de­meanour which only serves to fur­ther en­dear her to the mil­lions of gym­nas­tics fans around the world. “It would be pretty sick to win three in a row,” said Biles, ear­lier this week. “But I guess I’ll never know un­til hope­fully it hap­pens.”

She will be joined in ac­tion by com­pa­triot Gabby Dou­glas, the reign­ing Olympic all-around cham­pion. Dou­glas is an­other big per­son­al­ity. In quali­fy­ing the 19-year-old from Ohio saw off the chal­lenge of team-mate Aly Rais­man – her fel­low “Fierce Five” gold medal­list at Lon­don 2012 – to claim the sec­ond USA place in the all-around fi­nal.

Sep­a­rat­ing the world and Olympic cham­pion in the stand­ings af­ter qual­i­fi­ca­tion was Switzer­land’s Gi­u­lia Ste­in­gru­ber, who holds the Euro­pean all-around ti­tle. Elsa­beth Black of Canada sits in fourth.

Don’t dis­count five-time Euro­pean cham­pion and world sil­ver medal­list Larisa Ior­dache either. She may have been part of the apoc­a­lyp­tic im­plo­sion of the Ro­ma­nian women’s team dur­ing qual­i­fi­ca­tion last Fri­day, but the 19-yearold is a classy per­former who will be look­ing to salve bruised pride.

In ac­tion for Great Brit ain, mean­while, will be Amy Tin­kler and Ruby Har­rold who qual­i­fied eighth and nine re­spec­tively.

ARMS ALOFT: A ju­bi­lant Great Bri­tain men’s team cel­e­brate their sil­ver medal at the SSE Hy­dro last night

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