08/10 Tokyo (JPN): Great Britain will be represented by a full women’s gymnastics team at the London 2012 Olympics after a nail-biting finish in the artistic gymnastics World Championship qualification ensured them the all-important top 8 spot and an Olympic team place.
The team of Beth Tweddle, Becky Downie, Hannah Whelan, Danusia Francis, Imogen Cairns and Jenni Pinches scored 220.553 points to finish in 8th position, making it into the team final on Wednesday, but more importantly ensuring a clear passage through to the London 2012 Olympics.
British Gymnastics Olympic Performance Director Tim Jones said: “ This result is massive for us, we were very clear when we came to Tokyo that almost the sole goal was to support our men's and women’s team to get the best results possible and to make the top 8. We didn’t want to go through the second chance saloon of having to qualify through the test event in January and so today was a job well done. We are clearly not at the very high level of the USA, Russia, China, Romania but we are making inroads and it’s all credit to the girls that they came here and did the job, and we now look forward to London 2012.”
The British girls competed in the very last subdivision of the two-day qualification event having seen superb performances by USA, Russia and China earlier in the day. The British team began on the bars, solid routines by Jenni Pinches and Hannah Whelan and a great routine from Becky Downie, returning from injury, left just reigning World champion Beth Tweddle to compete. Beth, performing one of the most difficult routines in the world, lost form early and had to fight to maintain her swing on the bars to score 14.433 for the team, but not enough individually to make the bars final.
On to beam, a notoriously difficult piece to master under pressure and the GBR girls, led by Jenni Pinches and Hannah Whelan handled it superbly, Becky Downie the only gymnast to fall although having not trained beam fully since injury return she did well to pull through the routine.
On floor Beth Tweddle regained her form to score 14.433, the 7th best score of the event (and so into the floor final next Sunday) and a great score for the GBR team. The last piece was the vault, Francis, Pinches, Whelan and Cairns all with good solid scores, and then came the nervy wait.
With Japan and France still competing the British girls looked anxiously at the big screens waiting for the confirmation, which when it came, reduced many of the team to tears of joy and relief as 8th place and Olympic qualification was confirmed.
Hannah Whelan was without doubt the star of the team , her all-around score of 55.465 placing her in 17th in the all-around and into Thurdays final, but more importantly providing the platform for the GBR team success.
Beth Tweddle MBE: “The last few minutes were tense, we saw Japan go ahead of us and until we had France's score confirmed on the scoreboard, we didn't want to take it for granted. Even if it's only just, it doesn't matter. We've got that top eight spot and a team to 2012, that's what we came for. As soon as we were stood waiting for that score, I think all of us just wanted to cry. “
Outside of the British team the highlight of the qualification was the emergence of a stellar line up of young American gymnasts lead by Jordyn Wieber and Alexandra Raisman who qualified 2nd and 4th in the all-around and helped the US team to 234.253 points and top spot.
The British men’s team begin their qualification on Monday
GREAT BRITAIN 220.553
Komova (RUS) 60.157
Wieber (USA) 60.032
Yao (CHN) 59.031
For full results click here.