Britain’s men’s team have guaranteed a place at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, with a 5th place finish in qualifying at the 2019 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany.
The result also means the team qualify for the world final on Wednesday.
There will be six individual finals to look forward to as well. Joe Fraser will compete in both the all-around and parallel bars finals, with James Hall joining him in the all-around final. Double Olympic champion Max Whitlock produced a brilliant routine to top pommel horse qualification, and Dom Cunningham qualified for both the floor and vault finals.
The first job for the team was to ensure qualification for the Olympic Games. To do so, they needed to finish inside the top nine, excluding those countries that finished in the top three at last year’s World Championships (Japan, China and Russia).
Four gymnasts competed on each apparatus, with the best three scores counting towards the team total.
Starting on vault, the British team got off to a flying start. James Hall competed first, getting good height and just a hop forward on landing for a score of 14.066. Dom Cunningham followed James and produced two stunning vaults which ensured his place in the apparatus final; his first scoring 14.766 and his second 14.366 with just a step forward on both. That gave him an average of 14.566, qualifying in 8th place. Giarnni Regini-Moran, competing in his first world championships as a senior having fought back from injury, also competed two vaults with the apparatus final in mind. And it was another good score for the team, with his first vault scoring 14.533 and his second 14.200. Last up was Joe Fraser, who completed a really strong rotation for the team with another well executed vault for 14.066.
The team moved on to parallel bars and it was Max Whitlock MBE first to compete. A very neat, tidy routine from the double Olympic champion and a stuck dismount scored him 14.000. James competed second and had to fight through the middle part of his routine but finished strongly for 13.766. Giarnni had to count a fall at the start of his routine but finished well and stuck his dismount, scoring 13.066. Joe was last up and produced his very best when it mattered. A brilliant routine, packed full of difficulty and not a move on his dismount gave him a huge score of 15.000 and a 3rd place finish, and a spot in the final.
The third rotation saw the British team on high bar. Max competed first, scoring 13.533 with a stuck dismount. Giarnni, up next, came unstuck mid routine, but finished strongly, again sticking his dismount for 13.266. James Hall showcased some big release and catch elements to give him a score of 14.166. Joe was last to compete and had to count a fall on one of his release and catches, but refocussed well, sticking his dismount for 12.333.
The fourth rotation saw GB head to floor, and it was another strong performance from the team. James Hall’s routine included some big tumbling passes for 14.166. 2018 European floor champion Dom Cunningham showed why he enjoys this apparatus, scoring 14.600 to qualify for his second final in 8th place. Giarnni competed next and showed great composure and plenty of class to score 14.316, before Joe Fraser finished the rotation for the team scoring 13.800.
Pommel horse was next for GB, and the rotation belonged to Max. A two-time world champion on this apparatus, he produced a stunning routine to top qualifying with 15.266. A routine with great flow to it, and his trademark flairs guaranteed him in a spot in the final. Also competing on the apparatus was James who had to count a fall before fighting through to score 12.000. Joe competed a strong routine for 13.500 to go towards the team total and Giarnni, up last, scored 11.866.
The final rotation saw Dom first to compete on rings, and he did well, with good strength elements and not a move on landing for 13.833. James (13.766) and Joe (13.866) followed suit with two excellent routines, and Giarnni finished off a brilliant competition for the team with 13.033.That gave the team a total score of 252.409 and 5th place with Joe’s all-around total of 82.565 good enough for 16th place, and James’ score of 81.930 seeing him through to the top 24 all-around final in 20th.
Max said: “There was a lot of pressure, and I think I felt that by the reaction of the boys after. When I completed my routine successfully, I think it showed the pressure I was under, the boys were so pleased for me. We are such a good, close team, and we glued together so well today. I’m so pleased with that pommel routine and I’m looking forward to the final. There’s an upgrade I have on the start score that I can do, but I’m just focussing on my job and hopefully producing some more clean routines.
“I said before coming in that this isn’t just a World Championships. This is the Olympic qualification process. Everyone knows that in the back of their mind, but no one really talks about it too much, because that’s a lot of pressure to put on a team’s shoulders. Going out there, performing, and achieving that goal; we’ve got a four-man team going to Tokyo next year!”
Joe said: “With the competition being such an important one, to try to qualify the team for the Olympics, it’s quite a pressurised situation, but being out there with this team, and the atmosphere we create for each other, it’s unbelievable. You don’t feel the pressure, you’re just having fun with your mates. I’m grateful I’m part of this team.”
“I knew parallel bars was a strong apparatus for me, but since the European Championships, I’ve increased the difficulty, and that’s what you saw today, and now I’ve showcased that I can do it on a world stage. Scoring 15.000 is a big score, and I’m looking forward to the team final where I can hopefully do it again and help the team get to the highest score we can.”
Tomorrow (Tuesday) sees our women’s team compete in the team final, before the men get their opportunity to go for a medal on Wednesday.