GB's Olympic gymnastic dream in the balance

GB's gymnastics team are out to avoid the unthinkable today: failing to qualify for 2012

It was not the Christmas that had been envisaged by Britain's male gymnasts but a festive season spent in full training will be the least of their lost days should events take a tumble for the worse at the 02 today. A poor performance and they will become Britain's sporting lost boys, the most promising generation this country has produced consigned to sit and watch the London Olympics.

A disastrous performance in the World Championships last October has left Britain's men requiring a top four finish in the qualifying event that begins today. It doubles as the latest test event for the Games and the threat that it may be the only taste the likes of Louis Smith, who won Britain's first Olympic medal in a century with his bronze in Beijing, Daniel Keatings, a world silver medallist, and Daniel Purvis, another world medallist, get of London 2012 is a real one.

"The reality is, what's done is done," said Smith. "We'd like to have qualified and had Christmas and New Year's to relax with. But what's one Christmas and New Year's for an Olympic Games? We've got a whole lifetime of Christmases and New Year's to come and this Olympics only comes around once."

After a series of errors across the team – most spectacularly by Keatings, who fell from the high bar and the pommel horse – Britain finished 10th in Tokyo. "We had so many mistakes," said Smith. The leading eight nations qualified; those that came ninth to 16 have reassembled in London and the first four will be back in July to take part in the Games.

If Britain are among that number – they, France and Spain are the favourites – it will permit them to send a full team to an Olympics for the first time since 1992, which would mean five gymnasts taking part in the individual events.

If not they will be restricted, as the hosts, to a solitary competitor, likely to be Smith, although Purvis and Keatings would also have strong claims on the spot. "The main goal is to right some wrongs from Tokyo," said Tim Jones, the British Gymnastics Olympic performance director. "It was not a good day for us."

Gymnastics is one of the subjective sports which research by UK Sport, the body that oversees elite sport, suggests home advantage, and an enthusiastic home crowd, does translate into a slight advantage through scoring, and as the margins between placings can be slight it may matter. But only if today's event, which is divided into three sessions with Britain in the final grouping, can be safely negotiated.

Britain has genuine medal prospects. The women's team, led by the veteran (in gymnastics terms) 26-year-old Beth Tweddle, have already qualified, but despite their Tokyo tumble the men offer greater possible podium presence.

Smith, who is based in Huntingdon where he trains alongside Keatings, has the ability to become Britain's first Olympic gold medallist in the sport. The best they have managed was a silver by Walter Tysall at the 1908 London Games.

In order to improve on his bronze in the pommel four years ago, Smith has been working on a routine that has never been executed successfully in competition, the triple Russian performed on a handle of the pommel.

It is a complex move that involves the body spinning around parallel with the apparatus and demands 12 changes of hand position. He tried it in Tokyo, got it right but then got his dismount wrong. Smith also has a silver from the World Championships, the 2010 version where Britain came a best-ever seventh. In the same year they finished second in the European Championships.

Among his team-mates, Keatings, who was born in Corby but competes for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games, won all-round silver in the 2009 world championships, staged at the 02. That was Britain's first such medal, and a year later he earned another first by winning gold at the European Championships on the pommel, the apparatus he fell from in Tokyo.

Purvis, from Liverpool, is another who has won medals at European and world levels and has all-round abilities. It is a pool of talent never witnessed in this country, potentially a real golden generation, and one they are adamant will not be wasted. "We go into the test event in confident shape, good shape," said Jones. "We're not going to let one poor performance derail our plans for future."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
Nemanja Matic holds the Capital One Cup with Branislav Ivanovic on Sunday
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot