History was made this weekend, when the British gymnastics team qualified a mens team AND womens team to an Olympic Team Final. That hasn’t happened in the modern era of gymnastics…EVER.
And today…we won BRONZE – the first Olympic team medal in men’s gymnastics in 100 years!!!
I’d got really annoyed in the last few months reading gymnastics sites who had so many articles about medal contenders and hadn’t mentioned the British men’s team. Last month, one of the best sites that I follow regularly declared the medals would be given to USA, Japan, China, Russia or Romania in men’s team final. I was so angry – did they not realise the talent we had? Our men’s team had BEATEN Russia, Germany and Romania at Europeans as recently as May. Yes, injury comebacks and a disastrous day (not unlike the one the American men had today in team final) at the Prelims in Tokyo meaning they didn’t qualify back then. But the fact that Daniel Purvis got 4th all-around and Smith got Bronze even after a big error on his Pommel routine should have been a sign not to count us out. We dominated the London Test Event. Daniel Purvis got the highest All-Around score at Euros – on 3 hours sleep and a stomach bug! And then we won and became the European Champions.
I always knew that a medal was possible – though not probable today. There were some great teams – the American men proved in qualifers they were capable of making that medal podium. I knew that it was highly unlikely that China wouldn’t hugely improve from qualifiers – they did that at Worlds and they have great mental toughness. Germany had huge potential. Russia had huge potential. In all honesty, the surprise for me today was not the British medal, but the almost medal for Ukraine. The only one I’d noticed in the last year was young Oleg Stepko. Shame on me for counting out the Ukrainians. They did AWESOME today, and I hope to see plenty more of them in years to come.
I hope now you see why I made my complaint to the BBC – why I’ve complained that they’ve really not promoted gymnastics too much on the BBC Sport website except for Louis Smith and Beth Tweddle. These guys can inspire a whole generation of kids to get into sport with the drive of a dream of representing their country in international competition. Making the choice to work hard, be disciplined, stay healthy. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? Even if they never become Olympians, what they could gain to take into whatever they wish to work hard to achieve in life is priceless.
And stay tuned. Some people may say this is a ‘surprise’ medal or that the British men ‘overperformed’ – but those who paid attention (and that includes Japanese coaches when they first saw today’s team in junior competitions like the youth olympics) saw the potential. And if you paid attention to the European Championships this year you’ll know that there is some great talent amongst the Juniors that hopefully will come up in the next few years before Rio 2016.
I’m so looking forward to the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and World Championships in 2015 – both competitions will take place in Glasgow. It may mean a trip on the ‘road of doom’ (the M8 for those not in the know!) but today I’m even more disappointed not to have gotten those Olympic tickets I applied for and tried to get other ways.
And I’m not regretting a second of my precious time off being used to watch our British Olympians. Whether they win medals or not.