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