Commonwealth Games 2014: Francesca Jones saves best for last as she ends gymnastics career with gold

The 23-year-old dedicated her performances to the people who helped her get to the top
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The Independent Online

After winning five silver medals here, the about-to-retire Francesca Jones approached the sixth and final individual rhythmic gymnastics event with nothing to lose. "I decided to dance my heart out, as it's the last routine in my life", she said afterwards. It worked. She won her first Commonwealth gold in her last competitive routine in her third and final Games.

The 23-year-old from Wales, who has had to fight back from hip surgery, bowed out on a high by claiming her nation's first Commonwealth Games rhythmic gymnastics gold medal in the last individual apparatus final with the ribbon.

In a nerve-jangling ending, Jones was left anxiously awaiting the outcome of an appeal by Patricia Bezzoubenko, the Canadian gymnast who had beaten Jones to gold in the other five categories – the team event, all-around, hoop, ball and clubs finals. It was rejected. Jones had won the ribbon gold.

She scored 14.500, ahead of Malaysia's Wong Poh San with 14.250 while Bezzoubenko had to settle for bronze with 13.800.

"I could never even imagine that one," Jones said. "I thought, 'I'm going to go on and dance my heart out as it's the last routine in my life'. It's been a long time, I just wanted to enjoy that moment, and then to have that result... I'm so happy.

"I'm so proud and glad and happy I could do it for Team Wales. It's phenomenal, I can't even believe it. Just seeing the [Wales] flag up there blew my mind. It's not even a dream I could have had, it's just better than anything. I'm seriously struggling to find words."

Jones started the day having won silver medals in the team event on Thursday and the all-around final on Friday. The Welsh gymnast won three more silvers in the hoop, ball and clubs while her team-mate Laura Halford added to her all-around bronze with another in the ball final.

Jones, who had hip surgery after the London Olympics two years ago to cure a long-standing injury, dedicated her performances to the people who helped her get to the top. "I wanted to do the job for the team, for the two girls who came with us and the reserve and everybody, the whole team of people who have got us here and put their whole hearts into it," she said.

"The hours in the gym and the pure determination we've had the whole two years to get here. I wanted to do that job."

Despite this being the end of her own career, Jones believes the future is bright for Welsh rhythmic gymnastics, especially Halford.

When asked if she might reconsider her decision to retire, Jones said: "No, not a chance. I'm happy I'm done. I'm so proud of the journey I've come from the beginning. It's perfect. I just hope I can carry on with coaching and keep involved with the sport because it's the thing closest to my heart.

"Laura has been amazing. For her it's her first big competition I'm so proud of her. She's got big things to come. I just hope I can be there with her for the journey."

For Halford, her own success at the Games came as something of a surprise. She said: "I just wanted to come into this and enjoy the experience, so to come into this and win a medal is a bonus really. I am so pleased for Frankie. She's inspired me since she won a medal in Delhi and she's inspiring me now."

Jones was beaten to top spot in the first final of the day when Bezzoubenko won her third gold with a hoop routine of 14.800, with Jones second, 0.05 marks back.

In the ball final, the Welsh gymnast added to her silver collection and Halford claimed bronze behind Bezzoubenko.

The Canadian won her fifth gold with a 15.350 score in the clubs final, beating Jones and Themida Christodouli of Cyprus but it was Jones who finally came out on top in the ribbon.