Who to watch: Men’s Subdivision 1

Ok, Brits! 11 a.m. on 28th July is when the gymnastics action begins…and it is the time to cheer on the best British men’s team we’ve ever had. This subdivision should have a lot of great gymnastics in it, so I’m going to give you a guide of who to look out for!

Our British stars do interview for BBC with Matt Baker (gymnastics commentator) in Tokyo 2011.

Daniel Purvis (GBR) – This dude from the North West is a rock. Most gymnasts have one or two ‘stand-out’ events, and if I had to pick what he’s best at I’d say Floor. However, what sets Purvis above the rest is his consistency. At 2011 worlds, he remained calm producing hit routine after hit routine while the rest of his teammates fell one by one. Yes, he doesn’t have the difficulty scores of a lot of the male gymnasts do on certain events, but he is a great All-Arounder. He doesn’t have one really strong event, but he doesn’t have one really weak event either. Others do difficult routines and muck them up. He just rarely mucks up. Even at Europeans this year, he qualified with the highest All-Around score on 3 hours sleep after a night spent in a bathroom with food poisoning. He narrowly missed out on a World All-Around medal in 2011, and if there had been the chance to be crowned All-Around European Champion this year, I believe he’d have been the one.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Team FinalMen’s All-Around and (possibly) Men’s Floor

Louis Smith (GBR)Our first medal winning gymnast at the Beijing Olympics, Louis and Daniel Keatings did us proud in Beijing having been the only men from Britain to qualify for the Olympics in ’08. Since then he has helped Captain the team in most international competitions and developed a friendly rivalry with current World and European Champion on Pommel Horse Krisztian Berki. Louis has made no secret of the fact he is after Gold in London, and the Pommel Horse is to the men what Beam is to the women. It’s very easy to fall, and so often it’s not just about who has the best routine, it’s about who can stay on at the right moment.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Team FinalPommel Horse final.

Kieran Behan (IRL) – This Irish gymnast has an incredible story – the stuff Olympic documentaries and biographies are made of to inspire people that nothing is impossible. Twice, doctors told him he would probably never walk again. He proved them wrong. And went back to gymnastics each time. Because of his previous injuries and interruptions to his career, he doesn’t have the difficulty levels of some of the real medal contenders in the sport. But his performance at the Olympic Test Event in January was excellent in execution and from what I hear he has been upping his difficulty. There’s a chance he could make All-Around finals, and I would LOVE to see him in the Floor final.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Floor

Yang Hak-Seon (KOR) – Still a teenager, the reigning world champion on Vault will likely be wanting to be adding an Olympic medal to his collection while in London. Already pushing the boundaries in men’s vault, his young age means we will hopefully get to see Yang’s gymnastics for many years to come…!

Watch out for him in: Men’s Team Finals, Men’s Vault

The Chinese Men’s Team (CHN) – This team have become almost unstoppable in the last few years, and the Japanese and Americans in particular want to beat these guys to the top of the medal podium. They are the reigning World and Olympic champions and they are looking strong as we go into London.

Zou Kai – Knocked off the number 1 spot on Floor by Gymnastics King Kohei Uchimura, the reigning champion on Floor will no doubt be looking to defend his 2008 title away from Uchimura and the other Floor medal contenders. He’s also the current World & Olympic Champion on the Horizontal Bar.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Horizontal Bar, Men’s Floor, Men’s Team Final

Chen Yibing – Apparently injured, the word is he’ll be ok for London. He is the King of the Rings having been the World Champion on that event 4 times (06, 07, 10, 11) and the current Olympic Champion.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Rings, Men’s Team Final

Zhang Chenglong is the current World silver medallist on both Rings and Horizontal Bar, and was World Champion on Horizontal Bar in 2010.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Horizontal Bar, Men’s Rings, Men’s Team Final

Cyril Tommasone (FRA) – With Thomas Bouhail out of action, it is likely that Tommasone is going to be one of the anchors for the French Men’s team. Like Louis Smith, he has been in contention for the Pommels title several times in the last few years, and is the current Silver Medallist. He didn’t give his best performance at the recent Europeans, so he’ll no doubt want to prove he’s up there with Berki and Smith in London.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Pommel Horse, Men’s Team Final

Epke Zonderland (NED) – coached by British BBC gymnastics commentator, Mitch Fenner, twice world silver medallist on the Horizontal Bar, the 2011 European Champion went into Tokyo with the highest start value routine – but a mistake took his medal chances away. There has been much controversy to whether he or Jeffrey Wammes would get the Netherlands’ one men’s Olympic spot but it was announced after appeals that it would be Zonderland who’d be the one wearing Orange in London. He’ll want to hit that routine and prove they were right to allow him to compete.

Watch out for him in: Men’s Horizontal Bar

Look out China, here comes Team GB!

So. This weekend it’s the mens turn for the European Championships. Our women’s team faltered a bit in finals, but our men this week have been showing what they are made of. Our Junior British team won Gold on Thursday in the Junior’s team final. And yesterday our Senior team qualified in first place, our rock Daniel Purvis got 1st All-Around and every single man on the team qualified for a final.

That has never happened before in British Gymnastics.

And let’s just add to this that the team failed to qualify for team finals at Worlds back in October after a mistake ridden performance in the qualifying rounds. One of our star gymnasts isn’t competing at Euros. Oh. And Daniel Purvis had been up most of the night before with food poisoning, had 3 hours sleep, and then had to get up early to warm up and compete in the first of the days’ qualification rounds.

Britain were on Vault first, and he began the day by landing a vault on legs that felt like jelly and literally landed in a judge’s lap. Poor guy. And yet he rallied – despite being washed out from being ill, despite the sleep deprivation….to come 1st individually and lead his team to 1st place qualifying finish. According to teammate, Louis Smith he looked like Casper the friendly ghost in the warm up gym…

Daniel Purvis….you are a star!

Saturday (tomorrow) will bring the team finals, and Sunday will be the individual finals. Look out for the Pommel Horse showdown between Krisztian Berki (HUN) and Louis Smith (GBR). They have been fighting against each other for Gold since 2008 Olympics and they tied for 1st place in qualifiers. Berki is current world champion.

It’s going to be a great weekend of gymnastics!

Oh, and I finally heard back from the BBC who apologised for their delay in replying, though they did not apologise for their poor and inaccurate advertising of the Red Button schedule. They’ve said to me “we remain committed to other sports like gymnastics and will be showing every minute of it during this year’s Olympics.” I hope you realise I’ll be holding you to that BBC! Especially since I won’t be there in person (and yes London 2012 committee, I’m still upset about that).