Commonwealth Games 2014: Britain’s best ready to take on the world

Whitlock and Fragapane lead new generation of elite gymnasts

Glasgow

A year on from the Commonwealth Games the world’s best gymnasts will assemble in Glasgow. On the evidence of the last week in the Hydro there will be several Britons who will have a chance of counting themselves among the elite.

It was a successful competition for England and Scotland. Between them they collected 24 medals with Canada’s tally of five the next best. Five Britons stood on top of the podium, put there by routines and scores that bode well for the future. The level of competition may be a notch below the major championships but the level of performance was not – a good score in the Commonwealth Games would be a good score in any event.

“British Gymnastics is really special at the moment and it’s improving really rapidly, hopefully we can keep it up until worlds,” said Max Whitlock, the star of the men’s competition. The next challenge comes in October with the 2014 World Championships and then their visit to Glasgow in 2015 when the Rio Games will be looming larger and larger.

The London Olympics marked a seminal moment for British gymnastics with the historic men’s team medal. At the heart of that success was Louis Smith, the inspiration to a younger generation of gymnasts, a generation that has matured in the two years since the Olympics and is threatening to overtake Smith, who will sit out the rest of the year before returning to competition in 2015 with the aim of making the team for the world championships here. That it going to now be a big ask.

 

Four British men won individual golds in the Hydro, Daniel Keatings and Dan Purvis for Scotland and England’s Whitlock and Nile Wilson, a teenager in his first major competition. It is little wonder Wilson’s father whipped off his shirt and triumphantly waved it over his head when his son won gold. There is plenty to shout about.

Add Smith, Sam Oldham, who injured his ankle after helping England win team gold, Kristian Thomas, who also made individual podiums, and there is British strength in depth. Success opens the way to more success, suggested Wilson after collecting one of his four medals.

Whitlock, though, is the main man, an athlete of genuine world class. Just how good he is will be truly tested in Nanning in China in two months. There, Kohei Uchimura will defend his all-round title.

After winning the all-round here Whitlock, an unassuming 21-year-old from Hertfordshire, laughed when his name was mentioned on a par with the great Japanese gymnast. But that is the level at which he is now promising to compete.

If Whitlock was the best gymnast on display in the Hydro, one of the new venues built for the Games, then the star turn was taken by Claudia Fragapane, 16-years-old and 4ft 6in. The Bristol schoolgirl, whose horizon’s had not extended beyond the English schools championships until this summer, wrote a chapter of her own in England’s Commonwealth Games history.

Not since 1930 in Hamilton had an Englishwoman won four gold medals in a single Games.

“I’m speechless that I’m the most-decorated English woman at a Commonwealth Games in 84 years – it’s incredible,” said Fragapane (above). The admirable aim now is to make a prompt addition to her medal collection. “I’m expecting to make the floor final at worlds and hopefully get in the top three but if not I’ll know how hard to work.”

Fragapane won a flawless gold on the floor to add to her vault,  all-round and team gold from earlier in the week. “I just can’t believe it,” she said.

“I thought we could achieve the gold as a team, it’s what we initially wanted. Then, I wanted to make finals in the all-rounds. I wasn’t expecting gold. I just saw how close I was and grabbed it with both hands.”

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