This weekend was the finals of the European Gymnastics Championships. Usually, they are shown on the BBC. This year, they were only going to be on the BBC Red Button. I knew I’d miss the team final because of being at a work conference on the Saturday, but was excited to be able to the individual finals online on Sunday.
Returning home, I was really excited to catch up with the action via twitter and hear that the British team had made it to almost every final. We had 1 girl in the uneven bars final, 2 in the floor final and 2 in the beam final. What’s more it looked like some of the people who’d been (potential) world medallists in these events had not made finals above our British gymnasts.
Sunday afternoon came and I couldn’t find it online. So while I set about baking my herman friendship cake I followed the action on twitter. When it came to seeing Hannah Whelan though, I went through to the living room to turn the TV onto the Red Button channel. It was advertised on the BBC website (and by British Gymnastics) that the Euro finals would be shown live until 4 p.m. It was about 2 p.m. and I could not find it. I pressed Red Button and nothing about gymnastics could I find. The menu showed an option to see results of the Spanish Grand Prix. I flicked through every single channel on our freeview box. I found the Red Button channel. the Information said ‘Gymnastics: European Championships Finals’. Yet there was Gabby Logan and 2 blokes going on about English football. I pressed the Red Button, put the menu. Flicked the channels again.
Then I saw on twitter Hannah Whelan had won a Bronze medal on Balance Beam.
I tried the TV again.
Still showing Football Focus instead of the advertised gymnastics.
The floor finals began. It seemed tense. Hannah was the penultimate gymnast to perform…would she beat previous World Champion Vanessa Ferrari? It turned out she did, and got a second Bronze.
More importantly, Larisa Iordache who I’d never seen in senior competition before (except watching World Cup in NYC on YouTube) looked like she was proving herself to be a contender for Olympic medals. I wanted to see Catalina Ponor’s progress too.
I thought maybe it was just Virgin Media being rubbish again. I tweeted my frustration. Then later I saw the other tweets and comments on the British Gymnastics facebook page of people who had also been trying to watch the finals. Apparently they’d randomly left the finals when Jenni Pinches was performing and changed the programme to football without warning.
I was really angry.
So were the other British gymnastics fans.
So I wrote a letter of complaint (online) to the BBC. Their lack of coverage of gymnastics this year I think is pretty shocking (and there are lots of people who’d happily provide articles for them for free to report on World Cup and international events when we’re winning medals). Several of our gymnasts have won medals at World Cup events this year and they’ve only really reported on Beth Tweddle and Louis Smith’s medals. When they reported Hannah Whelan’s medals at the weekend, they wrote that she’d never been in a final ‘at this level’ before. Which is total crap. Firstly, she was in the European beam final last year. Secondly she was 9th in the all-around at the WORLD championships in October. Oh, and she’s won 2 world cup medals.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy football and other sports – I cheer for Chris Hoy in cycling, and love to watch swimming too. I’ll even watch Athletics on occasion.
But Gymnastics is a sport that requires a huge amount of training, skill and discipline. We’re never going to see ‘Gymnastics with the Stars’. And yes, I’m biased, but I know a lot of people who aren’t gymnastics fans the same way I am – but will happily watch it on the TV if it’s on. You can help but admire the death defying skill of those athletes!
Anyway, well done to our British team. Even without Beth Tweddle and a few other of the more experienced gymnasts, they still came 4th in team final. Plus a 3rd place finish All Around for Hannah, Bronze medals for Hannah Whelan and Junior Gabby Jupp = OUTSTANDING.