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?
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
John Cleese is promoting his new book
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
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

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game