Wow! These are the most momentous times in Britain’s Gymnastics history. So far, our Olympics 2016 medals haul includes double gold, a set of silvers and a trio of bronze medals. Can you believe it? Are you inspired?
Just over a week ago, few could have dared to predict that Britain’s gymnasts would reap such a magnificent harvest. That our artistic and trampoline team would be in seventh-heaven. But we were right to have faith in them. They and their coaches have delivered in magnificent fashion.
From nowhere in Athens to Louis Smith’s bronze in Beijing to four medals in London, the Gymnastics team has followed an upwards trajectory. Leaving Rio, the buzz is not just about Uchimura and Biles, it’s about the Brits.
Lady on the tramp
When a medal appears to come out of the blue it’s all the sweeter. Bryony Page’s success shocked the non-Gymnastics fraternity but for years she and her teammates have consistently challenged for silverware. Page set the pace early and was only beaten by Canada’s reigning champion Rosie MacLennan. The Chinese favourites were simply bounced out of contention. Cue tears of joy and disbelief.
Bronzed and beautiful
The nerveless Max Whitlock was always in with a shout in the All-Around and he delivered with a set of solid, steady routines. While others fell from grace he kept his composure and executed effortlessly. The battle for gold raged between Uchimura and Verniaiev but Max’s faultless floor routine sealed the deal for bronze. A taste of what was to come? You bet!
Medals to the Max
Super Sunday was quite simply the greatest night in Britain’s gymnastics history, the highlight of a dream day for Team GB.
On Floor the final was a titanic four way tussle between Japan, the United States, Brazil and Britain. Max Whitlock seemed destined at best for silver or bronze. But then the odds-on favourite Shirai stumbled and the Americans stepped out rather than stepping up. Kristian Thomas and Uchimura were not at their best, the Brazilians, Mariano and Hypolito were exuberant but lacked finesse.
Max was rock steady. His precise tumbling and crowd-pleasing air flair propelled him to top spot. All talk had been of pommel glory but here it was, an hour early, Britain’s first gold in 100 years.
On the podium Whitlock’s quiet, confident persona contrasted with the popular Hypolito, eyes thanking the heavens, and the tearful, theatrical Mariano. The Brazilians had achieved their goal but Max was focused, ready for a sequel.
An hour later Louis Smith prepared for the culmination of eight years of endeavour. It had been bronze in Beijing, silver in London now surely this was his moment. Conscious perhaps of his team final mishap he played a little safe on difficulty but pitched it to perfection. First place. The only man who could surpass him was Whitlock.
And just like in Glasgow ten months earlier, it was the younger man – no longer the pretender but the world champion – who triumphed. A one-two for GB. Atop the podium Whitlock again barely betrayed a flicker of emotion while Smith, so near and yet so far, cried tears of disappointment but also a little relief.
The third act
The final curtain came down on the three-day apparatus finals with a flourish. In Amy Tinkler and Nile Wilson we had two stars of the future. Two fresh-faced youngsters, one still waiting for her GCSE results, their aim was surely Tokyo in 2020. But for both the future began in Rio.
On Floor, the superstar Simone Biles put a blemish on the Beam behind her to eclipse teammate Aly Raisman in a skirmish of sommies, stars and stripes. But third place was up for grabs and Amy aimed high. She needed to be faster than Ferrari and more wonderful than Wang and she did it. Her 14.933 was an epic score in an extraordinary contest. A bronze on the Floor for the women to match Beth Tweddle’s bars achievement in London.
Which left the High Bar, for so many the highlight of every Games. The line-up was mouthwatering. Cuba’s Larduet, Brazil’s Barreto, Mikulak and Leyva from the States, Ukraine’s Verniaiev plus the big guns of Zonderland and Hambuechen.
Hambuechen led off with a stellar routine only marred by a tiny wobble. With the lower start value of 6.8 Wilson had it all to do. But his releases were superb, his landing stickier than treacle. Into second. When Zonderland face-planted the mat only Leyva could overtake him and the American held his nerve for silver. But Nile had a coveted medal and his cheeky smile lit up the podium. Alongside him on the top step Hambuechen completed the bronze-silver-gold path Louis Smith had dreamed about.
So what next? The majority of our team have at least one more Games in them and in the wings wait a cast of junior stars fresh from success in the Europeans. British Gymnastics has never set the bar higher and a generation of youngsters has been inspired. The lure of the bars, the pommel, the floor – dreams of glory in their minds.
After the gold-rush, clubs around the country should prepare for the gym rush. Make sure you’re ready – take a video tour of Gymnastics Club Manager and discover how it can help you manage your club of budding Olympians.