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
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?