Gymnastics: Purvis perfect as GB men seize Olympic berth

 

North Greenwich Arena

Four months later than anticipated, Great Britain's immensely promising men's gymnastics team have qualified for this year's Olympic Games.

Needing to finish in the top four of the eight countries competing in the final qualifying event, being staged here as one of the test events for this summer's Games, Daniel Purvis, Daniel Keatings, Kristian Thomas, Ruslan Panteleymonov, Max Whitlock and Louis Smith produced a series of impressive and almost entirely error-free routines to finish first by a huge margin, putting the memories of last October's disastrous World Championships – when needing to finish in the top eight of 16 teams to qualify, Britain could only finish 10th – very firmly behind them.

Their success means Britain will have both a men's and women's gymnastics team in the Olympics for the first times since Los Angeles in 1984. Technical Director Eddie van Hoof admitted he was as relieved as he was pleased at the manner in which every member of the team held their nerve. "Everyone realised we didn't do ourselves justice in Tokyo, so we put a few nightmares to bed," he said. "It will have been good for the team to feel what it is going to be like in the Games, but we'd still rather not have had to do it."

The 21-year-old Purvis, who was all-round fourth in the World Championships, finished this event first overall, with Thomas and Keatings second and third.

Smith, the Peterborough-based gymnast who won Britain's first Olympic gymnastics medal since 1908, a bronze, on the pommel horse in Beijing four years ago, took part only in his specialist event, and with only three from a team of four scoring in the Olympics, and three from three if the team were to reach the final top eight, the British selectors will face some tough decisions when the time comes to picking the final Olympic team.

The tone was set by the first apparatus, the high bar, from which both Keatings and Panteleymonov had fallen in Japan. Keatings, going first, raised a fist in triumph after nailing his routine, and the team posted only one score below 14. In Tokyo they had only one score above.

The floor exercises were even more polished, both Thomas and Purvis scoring over 15, the team aggregate score the highest of the eight teams, as it was in the next rotation, the pommel horse. The high rings, probably the team's weakest apparatus, also produced a solid set of routines. On the vault both Purvis and Thomas scored over 16, and the parallel bars saw Great Britain extend their overall lead to over seven points. Their final total of 358.227 would have seen them finish fourth in Tokyo.

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