Commonwealth Games 2014: ‘Special talent’ Fragapane stands tall in gymnastics with first four-gold haul for 84 years

The ‘Pocket Rocket’ was a convincing winner in the floor

The SSe Hydro

Claudia Fragapane’s ambition was to be a gold-medal winning gymnast when she grows up. When she grows up she will have to find another ambition after the 16-year-old, all 4ft 6in of her, became the first Englishwoman to win four gold medals at a single Commonwealth Games for 84 years.

Fragapane, nicknamed the ‘Pocket Rocket’ by her  team-mates, was tonight a convincing winner in the floor, taking gold with a colossal winning margin of 0.707 ahead of Canada’s Lauren Mitchell. She takes home gold medals from the vault, the team competition and the all-round to go alongside her medal from the floor and matches the efforts of Joyce Cooper who swam to her golden quartet in Hamilton, Canada, in 1930.

“It’s been great being here,” said Fragapane, who has barely stood above her fellow medal winners on the podium despite having the advantage of the top step. “I am only 16 and it’s been amazing to get four gold medals. That was my last competition and I wanted to go out there and enjoy it.”

It is only the second senior competition of Fragapane’s career – she made her British debut at the European championships earlier this year. Prior to that, her career highlight was reaching four finals in the English schools championships. Beth Tweddle, Britain’s greatest female gymnast, praised Fragapane’s work ethic and described her as a “special talent.”

 

It has been a well-rewarded competition for Britain and the growing depth of men’s home-grown talent in particular was demonstrated once again yesterday, when Scotland’s Dan Purvis and England’s Nile Wilson became the third and fourth members of the British squad to claim individual gold here. Purvis won the parallel bars ahead of Wilson and Max Whitlock, who was chasing a fourth gold of his own.

Purvis joined Whitlock and his compatriot Daniel Keatings on the top of the podium inside the Hydro, one the new venues built for the Games on the banks of the River Clyde, after a breathtaking routine earned him a score of 15.533, 0.1 better than Wilson’s effort. Wilson, who won the horizontal bars, is only 18 and competing in his first major championships – another reason for the burgeoning British optimism.

“The Scottish and the English are constantly pushing each other and that will really help our Great Britain team,” said Tweddle, who for so long ploughed a lonely furrow on the international stage for Britain. The competition here may lack the Japanese – the world’s best – and depth, but the scores achieved by Purvis, Keatings and, in particular, Whitlock, stand comparison with anyone. Whitlock’s eight Commonwealth medals gathered here and four years ago in Delhi are now the most won by an English athlete.

“Gymnastics in Britain is really improving rapidly, hopefully we can peak again in time for the world championships,” said Whitlock. “This has brought us all a lot of confidence.”

The World Championships come in October and it will be an almighty battle just to make the team given the progress made by the likes of Wilson, who goes home with a medal of each colour and as the youngest man to make a Commonwealth podium in the parallel bars. Unsurprisingly, he described it as the best week of his life. Purvis too was a happy man after also securing his full set of colours in his final event of the Games to add to team silver and rings bronze.

“I am so made up with that,” he said. “I almost welled up, my family are here and with the Scottish crowd cheering behind me I was so proud.”

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