Britain’s senior men’s gymnastics team have qualified through to Saturday’s European Championship team final in style. The experienced team of Sam Oldham, Dan Keatings, Dan Purvis, Max Whitlock and Kristian Thomas finished top of the standings scoring 267.076 points and will now be aiming to repeat their performance as they look to defend their team title.
Competing in the final qualifying round alongside other strong nations such as Germany, Russia and Ukraine, the British boy’s routines stood out as combining high difficulty with great control, their big competition experience– each gymnast an Olympian – being a key feature of the team. In the end the British boys total was well above second placed Russia (264.304) and third placed Ukraine (261.277).
The format of the event meant that three of the five strong team competed on each of the six pieces of men’s apparatus with every score counting to the teams total, consistency, confidence and composure being key. Max Whitlock was the stand out performer for the team but all of the boys competed well and it was true team effort that will need to be repeated in order to top the medal podium in the final.
As well as aiming to reach the team final the boys were also looking for top 8 places on each piece to make Sunday’s individual apparatus finals.
Olympic pommel bronze medal winner Max Whitlock posted the top qualification score, ahead of the Olympic champion Kristian Berki and will be high on confidence going in to that final, Max also qualifying in top spot for the floor where he will be joined by second placed qualifier Daniel Purvis. Reigning European silver medallist Sam Oldham qualified in 4th on high bar and is joined by Kristian Thomas in the final.
Max said afterwards: “It’s a great as team that we’ve topped the standings and continue our form from when we took the gold last time. We try not to the think about the pressure or expectation going in to it, each of us knows what we are capable of and knows how hard we work in the gym every day for competitions like this and the aim is always to go out and put all that hard work into the routines on the day. Personally of course I’m really happy with my performance and looking forward to the apparatus finals but the main target for this event is the team and we have only completed part of the job, we now need to focus ready for the final.”
Max Whitlock began the competition for the British boys on the parallel bars with a great routine including a double summersault and nice work on the one bar, just a hop on landing for an opening score of 14.633.Sam Oldham showed even higher difficultly in his routine, huge swings across the bars well controlled and a big dismount for a superb 14.966 points. Dan Keatings completed the perfect start for the team to go even better, again even more difficult with great work on one bar; his landing was stuck dead for a brilliant 15.266 points.
On high bar again Max began proceedings for Britain with a well-controlled routine for 14.541. Kristian Thomas followed with some huge unique skills releasing and catching the bar that took the crowd by surprise and impressed the judges to score 14.891. Sam Oldham then went to another level, the silver medallist from 2013 showed outstanding skills to produce huge releases and execute one of the most difficult routines for a score of 15.
Dan Purvis was excellent on floor, his difficult tumbles all very cleanly executed with very controlled landings to score a mighty 15.266 points. Kristian Thomas was also impressive, just a couple of small paces in landing his huge tumbles taking him to a score of 15. Max Whitlock ended the rotation for GBR with a series of twisting tumbling passes and his trademark breakdance like flares on the floor for a massive score of 15.600.
On pommel horse Dan Purvis posted another composed routine, knowing his chief job was to focus on a clean performance to contribute to the team total, he did just that scoring 14.366. Reigning champion Dan Keating’s pommel routine began full of rhythm and very quick movement travelling across the pommel; however he had to fight to hold his line mid routine for a score of 14.633, not enough for Dan to make the final. Olympic bronze medallist Max Whitlock was last up and was sensational, his difficulty score leagues above the other competitors including Olympic champion Kristian Berki, Max was confident and stylish to score a superb 15.966.
On rings the focus for GBR was to post solid scores and keep the momentum up. Max began with a nicely, very little swing on the sign a good sign of a controlled routine to score 14.600. Sam Oldham was equally impressive, especially with his perfectly executed dismount from the rings, he scored 14.566. Daniel Purvis completed the rotation superbly with the most difficult and the highest scoring of GBR’s routine for 14.633.
Finally on vault, Daniel Purvis began with a score of 13.366 as he couldn’t quite control his landing. Sam Oldham and Kristian Thomas - the vault World Championships bronze medallist - completed two passes which is required if aiming for a vault final.
Sam’s first vault was well executed for 14.583, but he was unfortunately unable to stop his momentum in his second vault and put his hand down on landing scoring 13.466 for an average of 14.024. Kristian Thomas also had problems with his second vault as he sat to score (13.300 ) his first vault however – that counted to team total, was superb for 15.200 (average of 14.250).